2020: Our Carlson School Community Shares Their First-Gen Proud Stories

Friday, December 11, 2020

Carlson Undergraduate Program students, faculty, and staff reflect on their experiences as first-generation college students—the challenges, triumphs, insight, and impact—as part of First-Generation College Student Celebration Week at UMTC.

Yu Zheng

Yu Zheng, Class of 2021, Management Information Systems & Marketing

Being a first-gen student comes with its challenges, like independently navigating resources, scholarships, and the campus culture. Since I can’t ask my parents or family members about the college experience, I learned how to ask others for help. I’m proud to be a first-gen college student because it shows I’m capable of putting myself in a new environment and being vulnerable enough to ask endless questions. First-gen students are even more qualified in the workforce because we proved we can overcome challenges.




kevin vargas

Kevin Vargas, MBA Class of 2021

As first-generation students, we have had to work harder to seek out information on college and graduate school to catch up with our peers. Because of this, we’ve already developed a strong work ethic, which is a valuable skill for any role, whether in academic, business, or non-profit organizations.





sidney enninga

Sidney Enninga, Class of 2022, Marketing & Entrepreneurial Management

Being a first generation college student means more to me than I ever thought it would. The opportunities given to me have truly been unlike anything I have experienced in the past. I love surrounding myself with other first generation students because we are the first ones to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. We are willing to go the extra mile in anything we do, because we don't take anything for granted. We work hard for our successes and push ourselves further and further. I am so fortunate to be a part of such a talented group within Carlson because they have taught me to smile a little brighter, laugh a little louder, and push myself a whole lot harder.




Nhu Le

Nhu Le, Class of 2022, Marketing & International Business

Being able to meet so many people with different backgrounds and having understanding conversations! Meeting other first-generation students and learning how they're working hard towards their goals gives me the motivation to grow myself. I'm proud of being a first-generation college student because I'm opening up opportunities for the next generation. Since my family and I are immigrants, I grew up seeing my family work hard for me to be a college student, so I feel very grateful that their hard work will pay off because it wasn't only for me, it's for everyone after me as well. I wish people knew that it's difficult for first-generation students to get started in their careers. There are no examples or connections that we have in our families to look at, so it's a lot of self-exploration and figuring out our own journey in college.



leslie lazcano

Leslie Valiterrez Lazcano, Class of 2021, Accounting

Being a first generation student has come with so many challenges. So many times where I've wanted to give up. I went into college not knowing what I was doing, with no one to go to and ask questions. My parent's are from Mexico and education after 6th grade wasn't free. I always knew my mom wanted me to go to college so I always worked extra hard to make it. I pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone and used the resources I had. Every little accomplishment I make gives me the strength to keep going. Being a first-gen has taught me resilience. I honestly wouldn't have it any other way. What makes me most proud is breaking that barrier. I am that role model for my younger siblings and making my parent's sacrifice worth it is my strength. I wish people knew that it is much more than just classes. There are so many things we have to balance that doesn't get acknowledged. Ask whatever question you have no matter how dumb you think you may sound. You've got this!



dylan jagdeo

Dylaann Jagdeo, Class of 2022, Marketing & Entrepreneurial Management

In general, college life and the independence that I have experienced being a first generation college student is what has been unique. Having little to none experience to base my expectations on when entering college was intimidating, as hearing from peers didn't give me the proper security needed during my freshmen year. The entire experience has been unique, simply because as a first-generation student, we don't have anyone guiding us, such as some parents do for others. I'm proud to be a first-generation college student because I'm paving the path for not only myself, but for my future kids, as well as being an inspiration to others from my hometown of Richfield, Minnesota who are striving to break the same barriers are me. One thing I wish people knew about first-generation college students is that it's a very stressful time. I don't want to diminish the fact that college is stressful for everyone, but not having experiential support from family members just makes it that much harder, as finding a support system while having all the independence in the world can send you down the wrong path for your collegiate career.



Huy Nghiem, MBA Class of 2021

I'm proud to be a first-generation college student and see my parent's vision come to life as they escaped a war-torn country for a brighter future for our family.







eileen chen

Eileen Chen, Class of 2022, Management Information Systems & Finance

As a first-generation college student, I have learned a lot about what it means to be a first-gen student and have met many supportive individuals along the way. I am very fortunate to be where I am today with the help and navigation I have received from others in my life. I am proud to be a first-generation college student because I am able to have access to higher education.




chad hildebrandt

Chad Hildebrandt, Class of 2022, Supply Chain and Operations Management & Nonprofit Management

I'm incredibly proud to be a first-generation student because I feel like I'm beating the odds of circumstance without a safety net. Growing up in an unstable environment, many people in my family didn't graduate high school, and college wasn't a consideration. It's been a bit of a culture shock, but a fantastic honor to have the opportunity to learn from my professors and peers. I think it's important for people to know that many students come from a world where education was not a realistic opportunity for the people around them for a variety of reasons. For these students to succeed, they may have to learn differently, work harder, self-motivate, be resourceful, and ask many questions for answers others take for granted.




kaitlyn wall

Kaitlyn Wall, Class of 2023, Supply Chain & Operations Management

I am proud of being a first-generation college student because of the extra work I had to put in to get where I am today. Any time I didn't know how to do something college related, I had to reach out to someone who had more experience than myself. That helped me learn how to be vulnerable and ask for help when I need it. I am also very proud of how hard my parents worked to help me transition into college when it was all new to them, too. Last year, I had the pleasure of joining a focus group with other first-generation students and it was so reassuring to know that I had shared experiences with these students as well as a shared identity. At that point I realized that I wasn't going through this process alone.




Ricardo Barry

Ricardo Berry Fonseca, CEMBA Class of 2022

It is a lot about grit; the same grit that would make my dad bike for 2 hours daily to attend middle school in order to get out of poverty in Brazil.







Ricardo Barry

Mackenzie Boivin, Class of 2021, Marketing

 Being a First Gen college student at a university that was outside my own home state and no one else from my high school went to I was excited to start fresh but was not fully ready for the challenges that would lie ahead. Being from a blue collar, rural area in Wisconsin I quickly realized that I wasn't like most Carlson students who come from Minnesota suburbs and know quite a few people on campus. As a first gen student some class assignments were just harder for me because I didn't have the connections that many of my other classmates had. I didn't feel like I stuck out, but my experiences varied from many of my classmates. I am proud to be a First Gen college student!





Joel Eaton

Joel Eaton, Assistant Director of Admissions & Recruiting, MBA & MS programs

BA, Communication Studies

I remember being in my second year of High School when I was having trouble with my math homework and turning to my mom for help. She looked at me and, for the first time, didn't have an answer. While I still went to her from time to time with help, I knew that going forward I would have to put in just that much more effort because I couldn't always turn to her for my every answer. I feel a sense of independence having been a First Generation student. So many of the questions that I've had over the years ("Who do I talk to about finances, how do I register to vote, where can I find XYZ resources?") I've had to research and discover myself. It seems silly, but this type of resourcefulness feels like a valuable skill and it's not uncommon for others to have reached out to me for advice on how to proceed.