David Smith

Middle-aged Caucasian male wearing jeans and a blue plaid shirt standing with his hands in his pockets in front of a lake.

What are some of the ways in which you support first gen college students?

My work provides me the opportunity to influence many student-facing policies.  I consistently advocate for us to revisit policies so that they make more sense to individuals who have little or no prior knowledge of higher education.  The more we can remove social capital as a requirement for navigating our policies, the better our environment will be for all students.

What are some of the challenges that you see first-gen students face? How do they overcome those challenges (or manage the challenge if it cannot be overcome)?

The sense of belonging is critical for student success.  Finding ways to ensure that all students feel comfortable and have a strong network of allies to support them is critical.  Creating an environment where all can ask for help and be supported is central to student success.

What strengths do first gen students possess? How have you seen that lead to their success in college and beyond?

First-generation students bring a unique lived experience to their college education.  Their experiences and perspectives are invaluable to the creation of new knowledge in higher education.  Their sense of persistence and motivation will serve them well as they leave the university with their goals accomplished.

What advice would you give to first gen students?

Ask questions.  Be curious.  Don't settle for the status quo.  Challenge yourself.  And know that you belong at Penn State.