Brendan Brunner

Brendan BrunnerCurrent Position: Residence Life

Alma Mater: Saint Martin's University

Major/Undergraduate field of study: Chemistry

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

Being the third of four siblings, I was very fortunate that my parents greatly valued education for my sisters and I. Drawing from my mom’s background, she continually preached that she wanted me to have a true college experience that she sorely missed out on growing up. With this, I was eager to attend university and shape my own understanding of our world, but I was also very nervous and unaware of what that truly meant. I didn’t know of any of the hoops to jump through or how to even navigate many of the processes to get me through higher education, but I knew I was getting my bachelors for not only myself but also for my parents. What helped me succeed along the way was asking a lot of questions—whether I knew who to direct them to or not. I found that people genuinely wanted to help and share their knowledge for others to succeed.

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

I believe the particular challenges I faced were general unawareness (of university systems and resources) as well as battling the feeling of not belonging among my peers and classmates. I tackled and overcame these obstacles by finding my community—identifying the people who would support me through this journey. As an introvert to my core, it was difficult to branch out and connect with others, but I exerted the necessary energy and it paid off in the long run. My supervisors and friends also shared a few identities that were salient to me and that was refreshing to be able to vent to them, share commonalities and struggles with, and help motivate each other to persevere.

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

My advice to FGEN students here at UP is to drive home the fact that you are here for a reason and that you belong here. It can be tough to persevere in the face of continued adversities, but know you have a community here that supports you and wants you to succeed. It is more than okay to ask for help; staff and faculty want you to be the best you can be all around.

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

My supervisor for my on campus job was a major role model throughout my undergraduate experience. She saw me face my deepest struggles and coached me through every bump in the road. She exemplified the perfect balance between personal, professional, and academic support for me. Those actions ultimately inspired me to pursue Student Affairs as a career and to give that back to the students I serve.

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

The greatest lesson I received from navigating my undergraduate education as FGEN was the value behind perseverance and the humility in asking for help. Carrying into my professional life beyond Saint Martin’s University, I am proud to be mindful and recognize when I need outreach from others in order to best succeed; knowing I am not alone in whatever my endeavors are. To support this, learning to keep trying and give things my entire effort has made me very proud of my work and accomplishments. It also adds a special layer to these accomplishments knowing I am honoring them for myself and attributing it to my parents as well.

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