First-Generation Faculty and Staff Advocate Program

The First-Generation Faculty and Staff Advocate Program serves to engage first-generation college students with faculty and staff around campus who have had similar experiences in their respective educational pursuits. Students who participate in this program will develop a network of support on campus, thus positively impacting their retention rates.

Faculty or staff who are interested in being a part of the program may register here. First-generation advocates can self-select their level of participation.

Levels of participation include:

  • displaying a specially designed First-Generation Student magnet to identify as a first-gen advocate;
  • serving as a speaker or panel member for first-gen student events such as orientations, informational forums, dinners, etc.;
  • sharing memories of being a first-generation student on our program website; and/or
  • serving as a mentor."

 Participation is open to any faculty or staff member interested in supporting this cohort.

August 2020 Advocate of the Month


Allison Soult, Senior Lecturer, Director of General Chemistry - Department of Chemistry

Hometown: Bardstown, KY

Bachelor’s Degree: B.S. Chemistry, Centre College

Graduate Degree: Ph.D. Inorganic Chemistry, Florida State University


Current position at the University of Kentucky entails:

As a Senior Lecturer, most of my time is spent in support of teaching both in and out of the classroom. I also spend some time on professional development activities as well as service to the Department, College, and University. As Director of General Chemistry, I oversee all 100-level chemistry classes and everything they involve. This includes assigning instructors to courses, overseeing the writing and administration of exams, working with students to resolve issues, and working with colleagues to update courses and select course materials.


What was it like being the first in your family to go to college? 

In college, I had to learn how to study more effectively. Like many students, I didn't have to study much in high school to maintain good grades. I did have a couple of classes (AP Calculus comes to mind) that did require more studying than others, so I had some idea that things would change when I got to college. I had teachers in high school and college who made it clear that expectations in college were higher and would require more work. The changes didn't happen immediately or without mistakes. I had to learn from my mistakes and do it better in the future.


What is your advice to first-gen students at UK who are facing challenges?

1. Go to office hours early and often.

2. Write down questions you have when studying and then ask them.

3. Ask your instructor how they recommend studying for a class (and then follow their advice).

4. Complete an Academic Coaching session to learn more about time management and study skills.


What were some of your most impactful experiences while being a student that helped to prepare you for life after college?

Two things that come to mind. 1. My mother passed away while I was in high school which obviously had significance in many areas of my life. However, the biggest impact was that it pushed me to step out of my comfort zone in other areas of my life. Dealing with that helped me see that I could deal with anything, so even if new things didn't turn out how I expected, I would figure out another way to move forward. The big lesson from this - consider what is the best outcome and the worst outcome, can you handle either of those? If so, then go for it because it's most likely something in the middle of the two. 2. As an undergrad, I did a semester abroad in London. As a science major, it presented some scheduling challenges because I couldn't take any science or math classes while abroad (this was 25 years ago and there are more options for science majors now). The opportunity to live in a new place, interact with people from a variety of cultures, and see the similarities and differences to others was amazing. It also allowed me to easily travel throughout Europe and see things I'd only seen in photos. Seeing a photo from the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral doesn't compare to climbing the steps and seeing the view in person. Reading about the Holocaust and walking through a former concentration camp just isn't the same in terms of how you better understand the world around you. There were also humbling experiences along the way, such as being in a McDonald's in Prague and having to order by pointing at the menu because neither of us spoke the other's language. Experiences like this helped me consider the world from the perspective of others.


During your journey to college and throughout your undergraduate degree program who inspired you or acted as a mentor?

My parents always encouraged my brother and I to do our best in school and provided resources to do that but also left that responsibility to us. They knew that motivation had to come from within. My high school band director helped instill a strong work ethic in her students. She encouraged us to work hard to achieve our goals in band and that definitely carried over to other areas of life for me. My professors as an undergrad helped me see opportunities beyond a bachelor's degree.


Please suggest any articles, publications, or resources relevant to first-generation students.

Two books I recommend to students 1. A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley 2. Mindset by Carol Dweck Add to advice for students - Develop a growth mindset if you don't have one. "I can't do this" and "I can't do this yet" are VERY different approaches.



May 2020 Advocate of the Month


 Tony Jackson

Director of Undergraduate Recruitment, College of Engineering

Hometown: Lexington, KY-Lived in multiple U.S. states and two countries due to father's military employment

Bachelor’s Degree: Economics, University of Kentucky

Master’s Degree: Sports Administration, Eastern Kentucky University


Current position at the University of Kentucky entails:

 As the Director of Undergraduate Recruitment in the College of Engineering, I get to work with prospective undergraduate students during   their college search process. My team and I meet with high school students, transfer students and their parents that are interested in learning   more about the UK engineering program. We meet with families, provide tours, host special events and assist with questions throughout the   enrollment process. In addition to hosting on-campus tours and events, we also travel throughout Kentucky and beyond to visit high schools,   attend college fairs, and host events to meet prospective students where they are. Our job is show what is wildly possible at the University of Kentucky College of Engineering!

What was it like being the first in your family to go to college? 

Being the first in my family to attend a 4-year university was an honor. Though neither of my parents went to college after high school, they always encouraged my passions and when I expressed an interest in a career field that required a college education, they were nothing but supportive. But, since they didn't have experience with the college search and application process, I had to complete many of the requirements on my own. That experience taught me self-reliance that benefited me many times throughout college and in my career since.

What is your advice to first-gen students at UK who are facing challenges?

The University of Kentucky has an unbelievable network of faculty and staff to support first-gen students. My advice to first-gen students would be to use this network as often as possible. We are here to help. Many students have similar questions as you and face similar challenges, so you are not alone in your college journey. Often, however, it takes stepping outside your comfort zone to seek out this assistance. So, I encourage you to take that next, sometimes difficult, step.

What were some of your most impactful experiences while being a student that helped to prepare you for life after college?

Two of the most impactful experiences while a student that helped me prepare for life after college were my leadership positions in my fraternity and my service in the Student Government Association. The roles I had in those two student groups allowed me to see how large organizations function and the importance of the minutiae that go into an event, a strategy, or process. That taught me to remember that the most successful groups and businesses have people that focus on both the macro as well as the micro. I learned that I enjoyed working on the micro -- the small details that make up a larger plan or event. In addition to my involvement in a fraternity and Student Government, I was also in a student organization called Preparing Aspiring Wildcats (PAW), which was based out of the UK Admissions Office. PAW allowed me to speak with prospective students and attend recruitment events, which gave me a glimpse into the work I ended up doing as an Admissions Counselor in the Admissions Office a few years later and the College of Engineering today.