First-Generation Week at South Dakota State University culminated Wednesday, Nov. 16, with the celebration of First-Generation Day at SDSU.
SDSU President Barry Dunn, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Dennis Hedge and Director of the Wintrode Student Success and Opportunity Center Jody Owen shared personal stories about their and their families’ education and their efforts to attain it, at a gathering in The Market at the University Student Union.
Owen, a first-generation college student in her family who went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a doctorate, spoke of relatives who didn’t have the same opportunities and those who encouraged her along the way.
“Even though I’ve had all this experience in higher education through my degrees and through my work experience, there are still days when I feel like an imposter and like I don’t belong here,” Owen said, encouraging students to use resources on campus. “But then I also have days when I’m working with a student and they have a success that we get to celebrate together. And that lets me know that I’m in the right place and I’m doing the right thing.”
“What I want you to know is that you belong here,” Owen told students. “You belong at SDSU.”
Hedge, also a first-generation student, said education creates keys that open doors of opportunity. “I am so happy you selected SDSU. This is a great place to write your first-generation story. … Let’s work together to continue to give you the key that will open as many doors of opportunity as we possibly can.”
Dunn was not a first-generation student, with both of his parents graduating from college.
“I’m the beneficiary of my parents’ education, and your children will be the beneficiaries of your education. I absolutely guarantee it,” Dunn said. “Your success and the stability of your life will be improved with a college degree.”
A weeklong series of events was held to recognize SDSU students, faculty and staff who are the first in their family to attend and eventually graduate from a four-year university or college. Events started Nov. 8 with the Avenue of Opportunities, a student success NETwork information fair in the union. The student success NETwork offices each celebrated first-generation students and staff through social media and office recognitions.
Brookings Mayor Oepke Niemeyer also signed a proclamation at the Nov. 8 City Council meeting declaring First-Generation Day in the city of Brookings for Nov. 16.