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EIU Making Excellence Inclusive

First Generation Friends

Dr. David Glassman

President, Eastern Illinois University

Dr. Michael Gillespie

Associate Professor of Sociology

Being a first generation college student is an empowering battle. It is about breaking down barriers, becoming a role model, and the emancipation of your human potential. The best part about this battle is that you are not fighting it alone – there are so many students, staff, and faculty standing beside you who have also broken through! And the reward is something no one can ever take from you – your growth through education.

Dr. Catherine L. Polydore

Catherine PolydoreAssociate Professor of Educational Psychology

Coming from a developing country, the pathways to accomplishing my dreams were always uncertain, since there was no access to advanced degrees. Today I feel truly blessed to have a career where I get to make a difference. To other first gens embarking on the college journey I say this: 1. It is normal to feel a little overwhelmed, just remember that scores of others have traveled this path before you, and have managed to achieve beyond their wildest dreams. 2. Your circumstances and “labels” do not define you; you have within you all that you need to direct your paths. 3. Life is filled of many challenges; do not be afraid of them, instead approach them as opportunities for growth. 4. Be open to enlightening experiences however awkwardly packaged, and while you are at it have some fun.

Dr. Jay D. Gatrell

Jay GatrellProvost & Vice President of Academic Affairs

My twin brother and I are first generation Pell eligible college graduates. Attending college wasn’t my dream, it was my parents—and my entire family. The University experience has enabled me to live a life I never knew was possible, pursue a career, or more accurately a vocation, that I didn’t know existed, and embrace a mission that transforms the lives of learners, their families, and communities. Given my experience, I am confident every student can succeed—if they are willing to embrace the challenge and remain open to the transformative nature of the college experience.

Dr Jeanne R. Lord

Jeanne Lord, Lumpkin College of Business

Class of '84, '86

Graduating from high school in May 1980, I made the last minute decision to go to college in July! No one in my family had ever attended college, so I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect-- I didn't even know what a "semester" was or that each new semester meant a different set of classes. My mother was a widow and made a living as a barber - she was uncertain about the whole process of sending me to college, but she knew it was the right choice. Confused and scared, EIU managed to get me on track with classes, housing, and financial assistance. This is a real tribute to Eastern's faculty and staff, and to the supportive and nurturing environment that I experienced as a first-generation student. Eastern Illinois University truly understands that each student has a unique set of needs and circumstances. It really is about EI&U. 


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Making Excellence Inclusive

College of Arts & Humanities
600 Lincoln Avenue Charleston, IL 61920

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