Library Staff Stories: From and To First Gen Students

Hey, UW Tacoma First Generation College Students! The library staff wants you to know that we’re proud of you — and at one time, some of us *were* you.

For this year’s National First-Generation College Celebration, we collected some messages of support from our staff and words of wisdom from members who have been right where you are now. Scroll through the slides above to check them out or read them in full below.

We’ll be here to help whenever you need us — even if all you need is a friendly face.

Resources for First Gen Students

For films, events, and resources for and about First Generation Students, check out our post Celebrating our First Gen Students.

A row of four smiling people, some holding or wearing First Generation Student buttons.
A few First Gen members of the UW Tacoma Library staff. From left to right, Suzanne Klinger, Tim Bostelle, Anna Salyer, and Megan Saunders.

Messages from our staff

“I was a typical first gen student in some ways: I didn’t have a support structure from my family and there were almost never any conversations about my school work. I didn’t start to even understand what it meant to be a college student until my 2nd year. That year I was put on academic probation for getting an F in an English class. My family put a lot of pressure on me but it was my friends who encouraged me with what turned out to be the most important advice: you just have to do the work. Do all of the work. Do all of the readings. Write all of the the papers. Go to every class. Participate in class. And if you’re given a chance, do all of the extra work. I set myself to that philosophy and graduated Magna Cum Laude.”

~ Tim Bostelle, Head, Library Information Technology

“Even though I went to college in a very different time period — way back in the 20th century — I remember being overwhelmed but pretending that I wasn’t. I think the best way of coping is to ask questions — as many questions as you need to — until you figure things out. It may take awhile, but you will eventually get there.”

~ Suzanne Klinger, Head, Research Help

“As first-gen students, we see our parents working harder for less, often having more experience in their fields with fewer opportunities than their colleagues with degrees, and sacrificing more for their children while hoping even harder. It’s easy to be hard on yourself as a first-generation student because you feel like you can’t let down the people who love and support you. When you start thinking about your college education as something you’re doing for yourself and not just for others, you can have more fun learning. Take the electives in subjects that won’t just get you a job, but that help you become who you’re becoming, that might ignite a new passion. Our parents didn’t get these chances. It’s our privilege to find joy in school whenever and wherever we can, and that happiness is another thing we can thank our parents for.”

~ Megan Saunders, Electronic Resources Service Desk Technician

“While I wasn’t a first gen student, I can understand how challenging it can be to navigate the university. For example: I didn’t learn how the reference librarians could help me until my last year of college, but once I started working with them I was able to answer more complicated questions and produced better work.”

~ Lauren Pressley, Director of the UW Tacoma Library and Associate Dean of University Libraries

“My mom didn’t go to college; neither did my grandparents. I ended up going to the same school as one of my aunts, the only person in my whole family who left Montana. Nobody else in my generation went to college either, or ever even considered graduate school. Being the first, or being the only, can be isolating. I was away from my family, and neither they nor my partner know academia well enough to “get it” when I was stressed out. My recommendation is to make friends! Your classmates, people you meet in clubs and campus events, people in study groups, they can be another family while you’re pursuing your degree. It’s important to find people to talk to, get help when you need it, and share experiences – it’s scary to try and make friends, but *well* worth it!”

~ Hallie Clawson, Special Projects Assistant

“I wanted to share a few titles concerning first-generation experience. On days that are hard, I hope some of these are comforting. We are so proud of your hard work!

~ Johanna Jacobsen Kiciman, Reference and Instruction Librarian

“I’m not first gen, but my mom was. She didn’t finish her bachelor’s until both her kids were fully grown. After watching all the work that went into her accomplishing that life-long goal, I want our first gen students to know that this is a big deal — even if it feels like lots of other people have already done it. Whether you came in straight out of high school or took a different route into college, you matter and what you’re doing matters.”

~ Marisa Petrich, Instructional Design Librarian


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