Winona State recognizes first-generation students

Winona State recognizes first-generation students

Kameron Wilson, Features Reporter

For the past six years at Winona State University, academic advisors Darcie Anderson Mueller, Kate Parsi and Charlie Opatz have worked toward creating an inclusive culture for first generation students.    

Aside from informing students  and   faculty about the background information of first generation students, the three advisors have provided several resources for first generation students through cooperation efforts with the TRIO Student Support Services.

While the majority of individuals hold the belief that most college students come from homes where both parents graduated from a university with a degree, there are some students that come from homes where neither parent received a four-year bachelor’s degree.

As an academic advisor and an adjunct professor for adults continuing education, Anderson-Mueller believes there is an importance in recognizing first generation students at Winona State.

“My colleagues and I started the First-Gen Warrior Student Club years ago,” Anderson-Mueller said. “We figured out how we can help every student get across the finish line.”

Currently, 39.6 percent of the Winona State population is made up of first-gen students. With 2,862 college students as First-Gen students, there are several resources on campus that help these students in navigating their journey through college.

“[Opatz, Parsi] and I continue to reach out to the new faculty and help the campus culture understand the different backgrounds people are coming with,” Anderson-Mueller said. “We want to continue to encourage faculty to be a part of a supportive culture.”

In addition to Mueller’s efforts in recognizing first-generation students, Winona State’s president, Scott Olson, continues to recognize first-generation students at the winter and spring graduation ceremonies each year.

While the recognition from faculty has benefited First Generation students in understanding their worth on campus, some first-generation students have experienced other benefits aside from being recognized.

Brooke Schneider, a senior therapeutic recreation major at Winona State, expressed her experience as a first-generation student.

“One of the benefits I have experienced as a first-generation college student has been academic support through the TRIO (Student Support Services) on campus,” Schneider commented. “Through this organization, I’ve been given opportunities for scholarships, career guidance, tutoring and financial services.”

While the majority of first-generation students appreciate the services provided by TRIO, there are a few first-generation students that feel seeking help sets them apart from normal college students.

“There’s a negative stigma in asking for advice and in college I encourage all students, especially first-gen students, to let the stigma go.” Mueller said.

Jesse Peterson, a senior art major at Winona State, currently holds the position of president within the First-Gen Warrior Student Club. As president, Peterson works toward helping other first-generation students by expressing her own story as a first-generation student.

“Students should find a source that helps them understand things better,” Peterson said. “Finding someone who makes you understand the value of college and how to understand the financial needs while you’re at a university allows the person to make you feel proud of yourself.”