We Are First Generation

UW Tacoma takes pride in serving students who are the first in the family to attend college. Many UW Tacoma staff and faculty are also First Generation. Read about the diverse experiences and strengths they bring to our learning community. Get advice about what it takes to achieve your dreams!

 
Diana Algomeda-Villada

Diana Algomeda-Villada

Sophomore, pre-major, Global Honors
Peer Advisor

“My advice for other first-gen students: Don't give up. Keep trying because the hard work is worth it. College is giving me the opportunity to do things I never would have imagined. I know I can achieve more than I thought, and I know that I'm honoring my parents and the sacrifices they made.”

Read Diana's Story

Yuliana Ambriz

Yuliana Ambriz

Senior, Ethnic, Gender & Labor Studies
Student Activities Board Chair

“Never give up on the idea of being a college graduate, because you are investing in yourself and your future, and that, in itself, is worth everything.”

Read Yuliana's Story

Soky Chhuoy

Soky Chhuoy

Office Assistant
Office of Undergraduate Education

BA, UW Tacoma

"Being a first generation, I had my challenges ... I had to learn everything on my own. My advice—be involved and make sure to do an internship while you're in school!"

Read Soky's Story

Jeff Cohen

Jeff Cohen

Assistant Professor
School of Social Work & Criminal Justice

PhD, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
MA, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
BA, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

“My advice for first generation students is to recognize that your life experiences are an asset to your own and your peers educational pursuits. Find a course of study that energizes you and look beyond ‘getting a job.’ Know that your teachers are here to support you and see that you succeed in ways that you may not yet know are possible.”

Read Jeff's Story

Lorraine Dinnel

Lorraine Dinnel, M.S.

Director
Academic Advising Center

BA, UW Tacoma
MS, Kansas State University
EdD candidate, Northeastern University

"Higher education is a life-changing experience and you made it here! You belong here—believe in yourself!"

Read Lorraine's Story

Douglas Epps

Douglas Epps

Testing Coordinator
Office of Undergraduate Education

PhD student, University of California, Berkeley
MSW, University of Washington Tacoma
BA, University of Washington Tacoma

“To me, first generation means making a choice to take control of your life and your future, committing yourself to the unknown to strive for a dream. Stepping into the unknown is scary, but if you vigilantly fight that persistent self-doubt, humbly ask for more information when needed and simply just keep pushing forward, the sky's the limit.”

Read Douglas's Story

Katherine Felts

Katherine Felts

Junior
Ethnic, Gender & Labor Studies

“It's natural to want to focus on your success and your pride, but the burden of being first gen is the necessity of building from the ground up. Making friends who have the same struggles is almost always helpful, but without the friends who are different, I would never have been prepared for this journey.”

Read Katherine's Story

Nataley Guajardo

Nataley Guajardo

Senior, Law & Policy
F1G Leadership Development Coordinator

"Believe in yourself. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone because it is vital that you do.

"Do things even if they seem silly, because you will grow and the growth of others depends on you. You owe it to others, not just yourself, but to those who are first generation students."

Read Nataley's Story

Hawo Guyo

Hawo Guyo

Sophomore, Pre-Major
Marketing & Media Coordinator, Somali Student Association

“A piece of advice: make sure you take care of your mental health while in college.

“It is easy to become inundated with coursework, but taking a breather makes it easier to process the material that you are learning in class. And have someone to talk to—someone who understands first-generation pressures, or even just someone who gives you the space to vent.”

Read Hawo's Story

Bob Hardie

Bob Hardie

Manager
Fiscal Support Services

MEd, University of Washington Tacoma
BA, University of Washington Tacoma

“My road to being a college graduate is certainly not the most traditional, nor did I take the easiest route. However, I am proud of my accomplishments, because, in the end, it was the best journey of my life.”

Read Bob's Story

Nhan Hoang

Nhan Hoang

Senior, Business Administration/Marketing
ASUWT Senator
Husky 100

“I got involved to be a mentor, leader and resource for first-generation and underrepresented students. I wanted to make sure no one would have to go through what I went through ... that I'm as good as anyone else.

“I am a role model for my little brother as well as fellow first-generation students. I want them to know that education and resources are options for everyone.”

Read Nhan's Story

Stephon Harris

Stephon Harris

Associate Director
New Student & Family Programs

BA, St. Martin's University

"For a long time, I doubted my skills and was not confident in my abilities. That moment you realize you belong is the moment all possibilities are open to you."

Read Stephon's Story

Christopher Johnston

Christopher Johnston

Senior, Law & Policy
Transfer Peer Advisor

"Even though my family doesn't share the reality and struggles that come with college life, I wouldn't have been able to do it without them."

Read Christopher's Story

Angela Jones

Angela Jones

Fiscal Specialist II
Finance & Administration

MEd candidate, University of Washington Tacoma
BA, University of Washington Tacoma

“It is not the challenge or obstacle that makes the difference in your life, it is how you handle those challenges that makes the greatest impact and leaves a lasting impression on the individual you are striving to become.”

Read Angela's Story

April Lai

April Lai

Sophomore, Business Administration
SAB Entertainment Coordinator

“I was pleasantly surprised to meet others who are also first generation. UW Tacoma has welcomed me with open arms and I am immensely grateful to have the support of professors, faculty and friends in my efforts to be a steward for student success.”

Read April's Story

Danica Sterud Miller

Danica Sterud Miller

Assistant Professor
American Indian Studies

BA, Western Washington University
MA, MPhil, Fordham University
PhD, Fordham University

"The best advice I can give is to talk with your professors. We are really interested in our student community and we want to do everything we can to help you succeed"

Read Danica's Story

Mark Pagano

Mark Pagano

Chancellor

BS, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
MS, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
PhD Southern Illinois University Carbondale

"I learned the hard way that life doesn’t always go the way you expect, but there is almost always a way through. It’s up to you to take what you learn and turn it into motivation and passion."

Read Mark's Story

Gabriela Raisl

Gabriela Raisl

Senior, Psychology

“As first-generation students, we represent what can be attained when you decide to write your own story. There are an infinite number of paths that can be taken to reach a goal and to accomplish your dreams. We are paving the road for those who come after us, and we're leaving them with the tools they need to build their own roads to success.”

Read Gabriela's Story

David Reyes

David Reyes

Assistant Professor
Nursing & Healthcare Leadership

BSN, Seattle University
MN, MPH, University of Washington
DNP, University of Washington

"It is important to find balance. Find time to develop and maintain relationships with the people that are important to you. At the same time, find the opportunity to reflect on your achievements, and reach out to others who can support you when you feel stress"

Read David's Story

Kayesee Schermerhorn

Kayesee Schermerhorn

Senior, Law & Policy
Student Activities Board
Issues & Controversies Event Coordinator
Husky 100

“Be proud of your accomplishment.

“You're not alone and there are many other students here that are in your situation. You may be the first in your family to attend college, but because of your hard work, you won't be the last.”

Read Kayesee's Story

Kendy Trinh

Kendy Trinh

Junior, Ethnic, Gender & Labor Studies

“When you feel like you are alone, you're not, because there are many other first-generation students that are here for you. When you doubt how good you are, reflect on how far you have come, how much you have achieved. Do not compare yourself to others—everyone has their own pace.”

Read Kendy's Story

Marcos Vieyra

Marcos Vieyra

Freshman, Law & Policy

“First-generation students carry with them boundless experience and passion. Many come from diverse backgrounds and each has a unique story to tell. There is strength in being first-generation.”

Read Marcos's Story