1st Generation – Dr. Alicia Brunson

Dr. Brunson’s Story

Dr. Alicia BrunsonTell us about yourself:

My name is Dr. Alicia Brunson. I am an assistant professor in the Sociology & Anthropology department. I am military kid so I am from everywhere and no where at the same time. My family retired in Junction City, KS. I completed my undergraduate degree at Kansas State University in psychology and American Ethnic Studies. I earned my Master’s and PhD from the University of North Texas in sociology and secondary concentration in film studies.

What was it like being a first generation student?

Being a first generation student is like jumping in the water not knowing how cold the water is or how deep it is. It is exciting, but anxiety provoking. I loved being in a place that I would grow and potentially allow me to have more opportunities.

Some problems that I encountered as an undergraduate was ensuring that I had enough money to cover tuition and books, rent, and food. I learned to stretch 25 cents into a dollar. During my senior year, I took 18 hours, worked 30 hours/week, and had an unpaid internship. I don’t know how I did it, but it made me realize that I will find a way with enough determination.

I also found it difficult to find a home at the university. I had a few close friends, but it never felt like I could just be me. It was a large predominately white university and I felt like I had to put on the right face to not be stereotyped as angry, lazy, or any other untruth. Learning what I had to go up against, made me strive harder to earn my degree and prove the naysayers wrong. I know that I didn’t reach my goals on my own. I was blessed to find mentors. One was the program director of a scholars program for first-generation and students of color. I found a place that valued my thoughts and abilities. Another mentor coached me into finding myself. He also encouraged me to purse graduate school. Both of these mentors reaffirmed that my life had purpose and not to give up although there were many times when I felt compelled to.

What kind of support did you receive from friends and family?

Although my family is not perfect by any means, my mom was my biggest supporter. She encouraged me whenever she could and even when she had no idea what I was doing. She called me frequently just to check in on me and tried her best to come to campus events I was involved in.

What can GSU do to help first Generation Students?

I am conducting research on black student retention and graduation rates. I have found a few patterns.  One is that students struggle because of financial concerns. Many students have to work, and in some cases support their families of origin financially. These commitments make time management very challenging for students, which then affects their academic performance.

Students also stated that they wish they had mentorship. Mentorship could come from upperclassmen and/or tenured faculty. This will help first-generation students by sharing stories and resources on how to navigate various issues that they may face.

Students also did not know where to go when they faced various problems. Campus tours should include information on financial aid services, tutoring and the Student Success Center, counseling services, multicultural student organizations, and health services.

Give encouraging words to 1st Generation staff and students who haven’t realized their academic dreams.

I know that it may seem like an impossibility attaining your college degree, but you will! You must know that you are perfectly capable, but you do not have to do it alone. Find your crew. Find friends who also have passion and determination to research their goals. Find that professor or staff person that listens and pushes you to grow. Ask question and ask for help. Grinding and striving doesn’t have to be what you have to do.  Thrive during this time. Grow and reap your harvest with your community at your side.

Last updated: 11/5/2018

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