First Generation College Students

First Generation College Students

First generation college students are those who are the first in their family to attend college, more specifically, neither of their parents attended college. Being "first-gen" is a proud accomplishment, and it can be a challenge because

  • academic performance expectations from home can be quite high,
  • supportive family and community back home often don't understand the demands of college, and
  • other students seem to know what to expect from college and what is expected of them.

First-Gen Community at Randolph-Macon 

At Randolph-Macon first-gens are NOT alone. Many of us here were first-gens ourselves back when we went to college. Randolph-Macon has a thriving community of first-gen new students, returning students, faculty, staff, and administrators. We are proud of our first-gen students. Please, if you are a fellow first-gen, introduce yourself to us. See our introductions below (alpha order). Also, you can find us on campus with these first-gen pride stickers, buttons, and signs. Stop by the Student Transitions Office (library HAC area) to get your own.


This YJ is First-Gen
Ask Me What it Means to be First-Gen

Jen Caldwallader

Jen Cadwallader, Associate Professor of English

As a first-generation college student, I had tons of questions about navigating my college career, and I’m so grateful to the faculty and staff at my university who worked with me every step of the way.  I’d love the opportunity to help other first-gen students in the same way!

Melanie Gubbels Bupp

Melanie Gubbels Bupp, Associate Professor of Biology

I was a first generation college student from a rural farming community in Nebraska. I enjoy meeting and helping first-gen students. Please, introduce yourself to me.

Debbie Marklin

Debbie Marklin, Administrative Assistant Provost's Office

My dad’s definition of his own success was to see that all his children (I am the oldest of 6) got a college degree. To live at home and attend the local college was the plan for me, but we toured the U. of Missouri School of Journalism anyway, just to check it out. Unsure of his reaction, I’ll never forget the day he told me I WOULD go to that journalism school and as for the cost, we would figure it out. Whenever I reflect on the personal sacrifice my parents made for us (all 6 of us went to college!) I am grateful for the value they placed on a college degree and keep in mind what a gift it truly is.

Jennifer Shotwell

Jennifer Shotwell, Instructor of French

My parents paved the way for me to attend college and enjoy opportunities they’d never had. We weren’t sure if a large, out-of-state school would be the best option, considering it was “the great unknown”, so I stayed in Virginia and attended a school much like Randolph-Macon. My parents were concerned about whether I’d learn ways of thinking consistent with our family’s values. I can especially empathize with students who, perhaps for the first time, are encountering very different perspectives and are being challenged to define their own beliefs. 

Kevin Bailey

Kevin Bailey, Associate Director of Admissions

I was a first-generation college student. It has been a personal mission of mine the last decade to help students avoid the difficulties I endured during my college years. I have the expertise -- as a student and administrator -- and I am a resource willing to be utilized for the success of future first-gen college graduates.

Alicia Elms

Alicia Elms, Coordinator of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs

Going to college was not an option for my mom; however, there was no other option for me.  Through trial and error I learned how to be successful as a first generation college student.

Annie Keith

Annie Keith, Director of New Student Orientation & Transition Programs

I was the first in my immediate and extended family to go to college. My family believed in me but I know there were times they felt at a loss when it came to helping me navigate the college experience. It's likely I was a part of your R-MC admissions process and I would be honored to be part of your support system.

James McGhee

James McGhee, Associate Dean of Students

I was a first-generation college student from rural Virginia. I remember my parents telling me that they wanted me to go to college when I was very young. I also remember them saying to me, as I left for college, that they loved me, supported me, but had no idea what advice to offer me about the journey I was taking. I was lucky enough to find supportive staff and faculty who invested in me and acted as guides for my educational journey. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be able to do the same for others as they begin their own higher education journey.

George Spagna

George Spagna, Associate Professor of Physics

Although my great grandmother had gone to a “normal school” to become a teacher, I was the first in my immediate family to go to college successfully. (My brother had started college a year before me, but he wasn’t a strong student and eventually dropped out.) So my parents had misconceptions about what I was trying to do and were never able to fully support me other than paying most of the bills. My real support network was from the faculty and fellow students. I’m happy to be part of the support network for today’s students.

Benny Balderama

Benny Balderrama, Assistant Director of Student Life

My parents had no plans for me to go to college and were visually shocked when I told them I wanted to. Years later I would come to understand that it wasn’t that they didn’t approve but they were worried as they had no savings or any way to support me with my decision except with their love and encouragement. I was fortunate enough to join the right organizations and meet the right people my freshmen year to help me excel in college and to push me to go on for my Masters. Today, my parents couldn’t be prouder.

Kellyn Fleming

Kellyn Fleming, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions

I was a first generation student here at Randolph-Macon. As a first generation student, I found myself having to navigate through a lot of the process on my own. Fortunately, here at R-MC, I may have been on my own but I certainly wasn’t alone thanks to the supportive college community and the many resources that R-MC provides. I would be happy to help other first-gen students through that transition and encourage them to reach out!

Pedro Larrea

Pedro Larrea Rubio, Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish

I was the first in my family to graduate... from high-school. College was an absolute mystery to me, and I had to learn the hard way. So I did, by myself. If you are a first-gen student, come say hi: I've been there, and I know one thing for sure: you can do it, and you are not alone.

Tricia Reagan

Tricia Reagan, Associate Professor of Spanish

When I was a young child my friend’s dad earned his master’s degree and I decided that one day I’d earn mine too! At the time the notion of college was so foreign to me that I didn’t fully understand what I was signing up for or that I’d actually go to college for 10 long years to earn my PhD in order to be a professor. My parents couldn’t help me navigate many of the questions I had about going to college but once I got there I decided never to leave. So here I am—in college forever! Hopefully I can offer advice and support to other first-gen college students.