November 8, 2019
On Nov. 8, 2019, the Council for Opportunity in Education is asking universities around the country to celebrate the third annual First-Generation College Student Celebration.
The date marks the 54th anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which increased funding for universities, scholarships and student loans.
“First-generation” refers to students whose parents have not obtained a four-year college degree; the TRIO program provides them with a support system to help them navigate the landscape of higher education.
The day recognizes first-generation college students; to celebrate the accomplishments they have made, and the barriers they have broken. Montana Western and the TRIO Student Support Services staff continue to work hard to make a college degree attainable for everyone.
Ashley Carlson, Associate Professor of English at Montana Western, was the first member of her family to attend college. Growing up in Southern California, Carlson attended Chapman University as an undergraduate and majored in English and French. Carlson then moved to Albuquerque, NM, for graduate school, where she earned an MA and Ph.D. in English.
“My advice for any first-generation student who is considering attending college is that college gives you opportunities to learn about career paths that you may not even know exist. Even if you’re not sure about a possible major, going to college is a great way to explore your options fully.”
Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, Michael Francisconi, was also a first-generation student. Francisconi attended Boise State University, where he received a BS in Sociology and later an MS in Sociology and a Ph.D. in Anthropology.
Going to college was a way for Francisconi to get his life back on track as a young man, and his goal of becoming a professor allowed him to give back by making an important contribution to society.
“For any first-generation students that are thinking about attending college, as long as it is really important to you personally, then everyone will be behind you.”
Melody McHaley is attending her fourth year at UMW, where she is majoring in English with a minor in legal studies/government as she plans on attending law school when she graduates. Being a first-generation college student, McHaley admits to having little experience when she was thinking of applying for college.
“When I was a senior in high school, at the beginning of the year, I admittedly didn’t know much about college or what I wanted to do, but after hearing a presentation about the University of Montana Western I was really intrigued by the unique Experience One program and eventually decided to apply,” McHaley said.
McHaley credits Montana Western’s TRIO program for providing her with the support and resources she has needed to get comfortable with the college lifestyle. She currently serves as a TRIO peer mentor.
“As a first-generation student, college was this intimidating, ominous concept to me because I didn’t have anyone in my family I could turn to for advice. Having TRIO since day one has meant that I’ve never felt alone, and the answers were always right around the corner for me,” she said.
UMW student and TRIO mentor, Daniel Flannery, is a senior from Great Falls, Mont. Flannery is pursuing a double major in Modern history and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, minoring in Constitutional Studies and Systems of Thought. As a TRIO mentor and Resident Assistant, Flannery uses his experience as a first-generation student to guide new TRIO members through some of the difficulties he had to overcome when he first came to the University of Montana Western.
“What makes attending UMW amazing is the students I get to work with,” Flannery said. “Montana Western has allowed me to become a leader on campus as a TRIO Mentor and a Resident Assistant so I can help first-generation students like myself.”
Flannery contributes a lot of his success to the TRIO program, especially when he first arrived at UMW and had little experience of what to expect.
“I’m happy to be a part of the TRIO team so that I can give back by helping others in the same way that they helped me,” he said.
Montana Western will be celebrating First-Generation College Student Day with a variety of activities:
The Center for First-Generation Student Success encourages all first-generation students to share their stories on social media using the hashtag #celebratefirstgen to spark a national conversation and celebrate first-generation students across the country.
For more information about the University of Montana Western TRIO Student Support Services office and provided services, please visit their website.