Katie Richardson

Katie RichardsonCurrent Position: Graduate Program Coordinator, School of Nursing

Alma Mater: Western Washington University

Major/Undergraduate field of study: Cultural Anthropology and Communication

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

Being the first in my family to go to college was both exciting and stressful. My family was so proud and supportive of me, but at the same time we had a lot of learning curves to navigate. Admissions applications, financial aid, finding the right textbooks, and moving into housing were all new experiences for not only me, but my family as well. Because I was the first person in my family to go through this, we didn't really have any one to turn to for advice. I think what helped me succeed was asking a lot of questions, researching my options, and navigating the different support resources that my university offered. At first it was intimidating reaching out to people on campus, but I soon realized that they were there to help and wanted me to succeed.

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

My situation was unique in that I started at a community college and then transferred to Western Washington University after two years. Transferring to a university as a junior presented additional challenges. I didn't receive much of an orientation so I didn't really know how to find my classes, who I should be meeting with, or even where the dining hall was. I spent my first quarter just going to class and going straight home because I didn't know anyone and I wasn't involved in the campus community. What helped me overcome this was taking a student job in the admissions office at the university. Through this, I was able to get involved in many different ways on campus, I made close friends with the other students I worked with, and I was also able to share my story with other first generation and transfer students who may be feeling the way I did when I started at the university.

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

My advice to any first gen students facing challenges would be to reach out and ask questions. There are so many resources available on campus that I wish I had known about when I was a student. Find an office or someone on campus you trust, like your RA or your advisor for example, and don't be afraid to reach out to them when you are struggling or confused. I always tell my students that if you're lost, need help, or you feel like you should be talking to someone but you're not sure who, reach out to me and I can get you connected to the right person or office on campus. UP is such a welcoming place and there are so many people here that want to help you succeed.

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

I was lucky to have a great deal of support throughout my college experience. In particular, my supervisors in my student job in Admissions were invaluable in helping me discern my professional goals as I approached graduation, helped me with my job search, and served as references. I also had a great mentor with one of my Anthropology faculty members who I would meet with often during office hours for help and advice. Feeling like I had trusted and supportive mentors on campus definitely gave me the confidence to pursue my goals. 

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

Personally, it has taught me about the importance of persistence and vulnerability. I would not have been able to navigate many of the challenges of being a first generation student without asking for help and support when I needed it. Professionally, my experiences as a first generation student have led me to my current career as an academic advisor. My student job in admissions opened the door to my interests in working in higher education. I want to be able to share my experiences with students in similar situations and give them the support they need to navigate and thrive in college. I am always happy to connect and share my experiences, so feel free to reach out!

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