Becca Henley

Becca HenleyCurrent Position: Academic Program Counselor, College of Arts and Sciences

Alma Mater: Oregon State University

Major/Undergraduate field of study: Human Development and Family Science

What was it like being among the first in your family to go to college?

For me, college was always an expectation, so when the time came I filed my FAFSA, filled out my applications and accepted my admittance at Oregon State. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary and I had my family's full support. I loved school and I had a wonderful college experience. At the time I was going through my undergrad, I honestly never acknowledged the fact that I was a first generation student. I just made it through and figured things out as they came along. I was lucky to have lots of support from my parents, who, even though they hadn't done it before, were willing to help me in any way they could. My father actually went back to school when I was in undergrad and we figured a lot of things out together. I think that my family's support was key in my success, as they were always pushing me to seek out answers to my questions and not to give up. I also found a job on campus that not only connected me to some awesome staff at Oregon State that kept me on track, but gave me real connection with my peers and some life long friends. This job was a key piece of my success in college as it helped me to discover so much about myself and my future goals. Mostly, I just remember always having questions, about everything, all the time.

Are there any unique challenges you faced as a First Generation student?

As a first generation student I had a very stereotypical view of what my college experience should look like. I knew I needed to get involved and meet people - isn't that what students are always told as soon as they start somewhere? In my mind this meant find a student club, that's how you get involved and meet people. It wasn't until later in my college career that I learned there were so many ways outside of the ordinary to make my college experience unique. Oregon State offered all kinds of cool exercise courses that I got at a discount as a student that I loved adding to my schedule each quarter. My residence hall put on programming and group excursions as well as the fitness center. I had room in my schedule to take classes just for fun. I could work for the university with other students. I could volunteer with other students at local places. I could be a sports fan. I could do research. Joining a club wasn't the only way I could get involved and meet people, which seems obvious now, but at the time it was the only thing I knew about typical college life.

Do you have any advice for FGEN students at UP that are facing challenges?

My biggest piece of advice would be to find one person you can reach out to. Whether that is an Advisor, or and RA, or a Professor. Just find one person who you feel comfortable with and build a relationship. You will find that so many people at UP are so excited just that you are here on campus and they will be more than willing to make some time to meet with you, you just have to ask. Never feel like you are bugging someone by asking them to talk. I always worried about this going through college as I was one to just try to figure it out myself, but so many of the tasks I took on myself would have been so much easier to accomplish if I had just reached out and asked for a little bit of guidance. 

How do you feel your experience prepared you, both professionally and personally?

Being a first generation student made me extremely self-motivated. Because of my experiences in college I am a problem-solver, a communicator, and a team player. I appreciate context and hearing people's stories. My college experience helped me discover so much more about myself than just what I was learning academically and it helped me find my passions both professionally and personally after college. I was able to go on to graduate school and find a place in a career that I love. It taught me to never give up and to always seek for more. Most of all, it made me want to give back, and help others to navigate through their unique journeys, with maybe a few less bumps along the way.

Did a mentor play a role in your experience?  How so?

Yes! I worked on campus my sophomore and junior years in orientation and my boss was one of my biggest mentors. She was a staff member on campus and she was always willing to answer questions or just be there for us throughout our experiences. She was always someone that I could go to if I needed something. She inspired my love for working with students and was a great resource for helping me figure out how to reach my future career aspirations.

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