Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Message to First Generation College Students

Even after more than a few semesters in college, most of the time, I still have no idea what I am doing. I’ve mostly had to attempt to figure it out alone, in a perpetual state of confusion, because I am a first generation college student. I was raised by a single mother who had a background in the military before entering the workforce, and my father never finished high school. For all of my home life, I had no one to turn to for academic or professional advice. I never fully understood the importance of college and how to do this life thing because I never had a solid example of what success looked like.

Dr. Frank E. Dobson, Jr., associate dean of students for Social Justice and Identity at Vanderbilt University, can relate to this experience, just like a lot of Vol State students. I had the opportunity to meet with him one on one before a presentation he gave this week at Vol State.


“I didn’t have people in my family that had went to college, I was an African American, working class kid, my Mom had worked in factories and as a domestic, but she was a really veracious reader. My Dad had worked in the steel mill, but he was a smart guy. I knew that I wanted to go to college, but I also knew that in going to college, I was going to have to work,” he said.

Dobson explained how, as an undergraduate student in Buffalo, New York, his life revolved around work, school, and church. Dobson said that his biggest struggles through his college career boiled down to: time, money, and convincing the people around him that what he was doing was good for him.

“You always have to realize that you love your loved ones, your friends and family members, but you’re striking out on a different path… Y’all’s mascot is the Pioneer, I knew that I was kind of the pioneer, because there wasn’t anybody before me that I could say, ‘hey, what do you do when….?’ Nobody was doing what I was doing.”

Are you a first generation college student dealing with a similar experience? Here’s some advice from Dr. D:

“Dream big, stick to your dream, never, ever let it go. Don’t put yourself on a time table, don’t compare yourself to other people… Ease the pressure, keep your eyes on the prize, and when you get it done, it’s in your time.”

To keep up with more events and happenings hosted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, please visit: www.volstate.edu/diversity-and-inclusion, or swing by room 217 of the Wood Campus Center.

-By Rachel Keyes

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