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First in Family Voices

Alexander Baugh

Alexander Baugh"As a first-generation college graduate, I found the transition to college replete with novel challenges. Looking back, many of those obstacles were predictable ones and some coaching here and there would have been immensely helpful. My motivations for mentoring first-gen Swatties is to provide timely advice on how to prepare for those predictable difficulties, how to navigate the vagaries of college, and ultimately to encourage my mentees to take seriously the goal of identifying what is important in their lives so as to guide the important decisions that college students must make." - Alexander Baugh, Biology

Nanci Buiza

Nanci Buiza"Having been a first-gen college student myself, I know that it is often difficult for first-gen students to seek help. This difficulty often stems from a fear that they will either not be understood or will be perceived as weak or less knowledgeable than their peers. This is why I like to share my experiences with students—so that they can identify me and know that they can approach me and ask questions. Successful people are successful because they have access to networks and resources that they use to get ahead. Asking for help is key to building one’s own network. I also believe that it is essential that students realize that not all successful people got to where they are by following a traditional course of study or professionalization. Some of us took longer to finish college because we had full-time jobs or went to a community college before transferring to a four-year college or university. No matter how your path to success looks like, you can walk it more efficiently if you ask for directions when needed. And many of us here at Swarthmore—faculty, administrators, staff, and students—are here to help you." Nanci Buiza, Spanish

Allison Dorsey

Allison Dorsey"My commitment to first-generation college students comes from my own experience but is also about inclusion, fairness, and the necessary intervention in the lives of working class people that makes the American Dream real rather than a fantasy." Allison Dorsey, history

Ralph Gomez

Ralph Gomez"As a former first-generation student myself, my family never discussed the idea of going to college as a potential option for my future. So, when I decided to attend college, I thought I had to learn how to navigate absolutely everything on my own. Fortunately, along the way I met some absolutely wonderful people that helped, supported, and encouraged me. Working with first-generation students allows me the chance to give back and become an integral part of their developing support network." - Ralph Gomez, mathematics

Tiauna Lewis '19

Tiauna Lewis '19"The first-generation luncheons were so impactful during my first year at Swarthmore. I was able to find a space where my peers and I shared the weight, responsibility, pride, and excitement of being the first in our families to go to college. We listened to faculty and older students who offered extraordinarily valuable advice to us which made me feel less alone in my experiences."  Tiauna Lewis '19 from Denton, Neb.

Jimmy Shah '18

Jimmy Shah '18"As a first-generation college student, I am more than grateful for the support that Swarthmore has provided for me. The luncheons that feature students, faculty, and staff who are also first-gen provide an easy transition both academically and emotionally. Although being first-gen can sometimes be challenging, having a strong relationship with my family and fellow Swatties has continued to motivate me. Through the accessibility of the class deans and community leaders, I have also gained a sense of direction and found answers to my many questions. I am proud to say that I attend a school that is strongly committed to helping students such as myself." - Jimmy Shah '18, a computer science major from West Berlin, N.J.

Krista Thomason

"As a first-generation faculty member, it's important to me that first-generation students know that a life in higher education is an option for them. I loved philosophy, but I never dreamed of being a professor until my undergraduate mentors encouraged me to pursue that path. So I want to do for other students what my mentors did for me." - Krista Thomason, philosophy