“There is something special about being first,” said Bridget Rose. “Being a first-generation college student is special too.”
Rose began her pursuit of higher education when she enrolled in Mobile College in 1985, becoming the first person in her immediate family to ever attend college. The sensation, she admits, was uncomfortable at first.
“I was starting a journey that no one else in my immediate family had ever undertaken. While I was aware of the challenges that presented me – socially, financially and even academically – I was reluctant to ask for or accept help. My fear was looking or acting like I did not belong, and I made the false assumption that everyone else knew far more about college than I did,” said Rose.
Rose described what several first-generation students have described about their experience of being first. Being first can be intimidating, but Rose is ready to change that narrative. She now serves as Samford University’s director of the Academic Success Center.
“I began to understand that being a first-generation college student was something to be proud of. First-gen students often demonstrate a high level of commitment to their education and can be more highly motivated. They may also be more resilient if they have faced challenges or setbacks. I have grown to understand the importance of speaking up about my own college experiences – the good and the bad – in the hopes that students like me will identify and know they are not alone,” said Rose.
Rose, along with fellow faculty members and first-generation students, like Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Hardin and Assistant Professor Taylor Cyr, are working to meet the unique needs of students and tell their stories.
On November 8, Samford University will host a reception, the first of its kind at Samford, celebrating first-generation college students. The date holds special significance, as it marks the national First-generation College Celebration, commemorating the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which sought to expand access and level the playing field to higher education institutions for Americans.
Since 2017, the annual celebration has become a priority for the Center for First-Generation Student Success and the Council for Opportunity in Education. This year, Samford plans to join in the nationwide celebrations.
The reception will be held on Nov. 8 from 4-6 p.m. at the President’s House. Rose encourages the Samford family to register to attend.
“We hope many first-generation students, faculty and their friends will attend. But even those just interested in fostering first-generation success or those who wish to learn are welcome,” said Rose.