This fall, Ball State welcomed 4,034 freshmen to our campus, surpassing the previous record of 4,006 in 1997. The record-setting population of freshmen also brought with it an influx of first-generation students — students that are the first in their families to pursue higher education. Throughout the month of September, we set out to welcome and reassure these students by reminding them that many have found themselves in their position.

We’re of course talking about our lovely #bsuenglish faculty. Many faculty members in the English department are first-generation college students and they were kind enough to share their stories, as well as some stellar photos from their college days. We’ve also included some of the several student first-gen stories we received throughout the campaign. For a more in-depth look into the project, visit our Facebook album.

We also received some stories without photos:

  • Prof. Rani Crowe shared, “I didn’t realize how many resources at the university were available for students and I think I felt too embarassed to use them. Now, after working with students, I encourage you to take advantage of all the resources you can- counselors, advisors, health services, libraries, events, etc- you are paying for them with your fees, take advantage of all you can. Also, reach out and connect with your professors and classmates and Disability Services early while everything is going well. It gets so much harder to reach out once you get behind or start to feel depressed or isolated. Build your support network before you need it.”
  • Prof. Mary Seig stated, “In high school, one of the classes that we could take was typing/shorthand – but my parents would not allow me to take that course because they did not want me to be a secretary – they wanted me to go to college. They did not know that they could help me move in, so I showed up with my garbage bags and boxes and wondered why everyone else had help… When I got to the university, there were more students on the floor of the dorm that I lived in than there were in my whole graduating class. I had NO idea how to study or how to manage the workload.”
  • Prof. Silas Hansen recalls, “It was always EXPECTED that I would go to college, but my parents didn’t really know how to help me do it. Although my parents both had associate’s degrees (and my mom eventually finished a BA and MA), they had no idea what a ‘traditional’ 4-year college experience was like—and due to my mom’s own debt from school, they couldn’t help me at all financially. I ended up taking out a lot of student loans to pay for school—and they ended up being high interest private loans because we didn’t understand the difference. My parents didn’t really know how to help me as I picked a major that wasn’t immediately/obviously ‘practical’ and then things got even harder as I went on to graduate school and became a professor. They’re learning, but it’s sometimes hard for them to ‘get’ what I do/why I can’t live closer to them.”
  • Prof. Megumi Hamada remembers having “to argue with [her] parents about college a lot even about going to grad school.”

We’d like to thank all those that shared their stories with us, including President Geoffrey S. Mearns. Keep an eye on the Ball State History and Ball State Honors College accounts – they’ll be sharing first-gen stories in the near future.