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Dr. Deana Julka

Dr. Julka

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

My family was supportive of doing well academically and continuing my education, but because they had not gone to college, they did not provide information on the process or what to expect. On the positive side, there was no pressure! However, I felt in the dark, and did not have guidance in making decisions, and really did not explore many options. However, I had always been pulled toward teachers/ mentors and had many who encouraged me, and in particular my biology teacher in high school.

Are there any unique challenges you faced as a first gen student?

Finances were tight. I did not receive any financial support from my family so I worked 40+ hours/wk in addition to being a full time student (and maxing out on loans). I was very motivated to do well, perhaps because there was no 'safety net'. Figuring out how to manage my time was critical, and I really did not learn how to do that well until my junior year -so I can empathize with students at UP who feel overwhelmed trying to balance their work/study/social lives/ etc. Additionally, I did not know where to ask questions, and often felt like others were much better prepared coming in.

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

Faculty/ staff want you to succeed --come and ask questions -we invite them! This is a supportive environment, and if you are feeling scared, overwhelmed, sad, alone,… you likely are not alone in any of those feelings.

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

In college my psychology professor took notice of my work very early on and gave me more! It was a blessing -without his guidance and attention, and later mentoring in the graduate school process, I don't know what would have happened. He also advised me to always say "yes' to opportunities.

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

Resilience. There are character traits that are being developed, beyond factual information you will gain in classes, that will be central to your life post-UP. I embrace challenge, and also recognize and am more empathic toward others who are going through similar situations than I might be otherwise.

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