Elun Gabriel, Associate Dean for Academic Advising Programs and Associate Professor of History
I am not a first-generation college student, but on my father’s side of the family, there is a checkered generational history of college completion, with my father taking some community college classes but never earning a degree and only two of us in my generation who are college graduates; and on my mother’s side, I am only three generations away from Eastern European Jews who emigrated to the US with no education at all but only manual skills (watch maker and shoe salesman, most notably). I grew up with the privilege of knowing I could go to college, but with family who did manual labor (my father was a construction worker and my uncle worked in a Ford plant) and did not take education for granted. I am not first-gen, but I am a first-gen ally!
One of the pleasures of my current position as Associate Dean of Advising is getting to help students navigate the rules, policies, and procedures of the university, showing them how it works and how to use it effectively to get the support they need and the opportunities they deserve. One of the things I want to make clear to first-gen college students is that the university has a distinct culture, with social practices, expectations, and language that you can learn—and we are here to help you. If you do not know the code yet, it does not make you dumb, and it should not make you feel intimidated or unwelcome. We are here to help you crack the code and learn the culture, so you can succeed and reach your potential. This doesn’t mean giving up who you are or where you come from, but adding knowledge of a new culture to what you already know.