First-Generation Faculty and Staff Advocate Program

We appreciate and celebrate our First-Generation Faculty and Staff Advocates! 

If you missed our special shout out and special playlist  no problem. We've got you covered. Check out the WRFL Blog that contains the readings of names and Spotify playlist:

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.

Featured Advocates:

Jessica Chandler, Program Director for Leadership Education, Office of Student Organizations & Activities

Hometown: Detroit, MI

Bachelor of Social Work, Saginaw Valley State University

Masters of Arts, Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education, Ball State University


Please briefly describe what your position entails:

As the Program Director for Leadership Education in the Office of Student Organizations and Activities, I work to provide leadership trainings, programs, and events for students and student organizations.

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

When I went to college I did not realize I was a First-Generation college student. I knew my immediate family did not hold a degree, but I didn't truly know what that meant. It wasn't until I started researching schools and figuring out financial aid that it dawned on me that I was in it by myself. I didn't have anyone I could ask questions too and I had to figure a lot of things out by myself.

I also became immediately aware of how I portrayed myself and my situation to my family members. I would downplay what was happening at school or not tell my mom the good stuff because I didn't want to seem as if I was bragging to her about what I got to do. She was always proud of me and pushed me to take every opportunity available to me.

Tell us about your story and what you think helped you succeed.

I was someone that didn't actually want to go to college. I applied to my undergrad because a woman my mom worked with went there and I could get in. I remember going for orientation over the summer and being extremely overwhelmed. So many questions, decisions to make, finances to figure out. When I first started it took a while to find "my place." I didn't venture out a lot my first semester and didn't have a lot of friends. I found our Student Life Office the end of my first semester and almost everything changed after that! I got a job at the front desk, went on the university's first Alternative Spring Break trip, joined Alpha Phi Omega, and started to come out of my shell. I worked for 4.5 years in the Student Life Office and LOVED every second. That was the place I belonged. That was the place I could use my strengths. That was the place that helped me find my way when I was a lost freshman. I got to be a part of something and I truly believe that is what helped me succeed at SVSU!

How did your choice of undergraduate major relate to your future career path (if at all)?

I chose my major, Social Work, because I wanted to help people. I wanted to make a difference and that was the best way I knew how. It wasn't until the second semester of my senior year that I realized I social work was not for me. I had a bad experience with an internship and I was ready to be done with school. I liked to volunteer and give back and had a supervisor in the Student Life Office tell me about the AmeriCorps program. I knew at that moment I was not ready for graduate school and I was definitely not ready for a ""real world"" job in social work. So, I did the next best thing and moved 16 hours away from home to Boston and volunteered for two years!

Had I not realized then that I wasn't ready for the social work field, I wouldn't have figured out I wanted to work in Higher Education. My experience with internships in the SW field prepared me to work in higher ed. I still use the skills I learned then to work with students, faculty, staff, and the community now.

What were some of the unique challenges you faced as a first-generation student and how did you overcome them? 

I think the biggest challenge I faced as a first-gen student was not knowing what to expect. From not knowing what to pack/bring to college to not knowing about testing resources or scholarships or how to get involved. I had no one before me go through it, so I had no one to ask. I remember there was A LOT of nervousness and anxiety before I left for school. The unknown was scary, and I didn't have anyone that could make it less scary. But being a first-gen made me become my best advocate. I learned to speak up for myself, ask questions, put myself out there. No one was going to do it for me, so I just did it. I grew extremely independent and the current me is so glad the 18-year-old me learned those skil

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

1) Do not be ashamed you are a first-gen college student! It can be an extremely humbling experience, but you deserve to be here just as much as anyone else!
2) Learn how to be your best advocate. Ask questions. Don't put things off. Figure out what you need to do the best you can while you are here.
3) Figure out the financials now. I cannot stress this enough. I wish I knew then what I know how. I probably would have done some things differently. What you do now will directly affect you in 10, 20, or 30 years. If you are taking out student loans, know what your payment will be and have a plan!

Parting thought.

It takes a long time to fully comprehend the impact of being a first-generation college student. Don't let it define you. Use it as a badge of honor!


Featured Advocate


Jacob Westover, Assistant Director of Admission for Recruitment

Hometown: Florence, KY

Bachelor’s Degree: Communication, University of Kentucky

Current position at the University of Kentucky entails:

I serve as one of our Admissions Recruiters for the University of Kentucky, meaning I am on the road a good portion of the time to talk with prospective students and families about what makes UK an amazing university. I specifically recruit in Northern and Central Ohio (Columbus, Cleveland, and Toledo). I go to college fairs, visit high schools, host recruitment events, counselor breakfasts, and so much more. Being able to advocate for my alma mater is such a pleasure. You are truly making a difference in students' lives, and for me, given my first-generation background, this is something I strive to provide for each of my students.

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

The feeling is unlike any other. As an underrepresented group, it can sometimes feel overwhelming coming to college. You may be confused as to where to start, how to strategize, use your resources to the best of your advantage, etc. However, the support here at the University of Kentucky is amazing, and is one of the reasons I was able to graduate. Being a first-generation college graduate helps bring a unique element to my story. Often times, I enjoy being able to share how the resources here at UK, have helped challenge me, and make me strive for excellence.

Tell us about your story and what you think helped you succeed. 

I grew up in the Northern Kentucky region. I came from a household that valued discipline, and so ultimately, I knew that I was going to college. My parents, although, not familiar with the college experience themselves, taught me hard work pays off. I was not the best test taker, so the ACT did not help me when it came to scholarships. However, I did great in my classes, to where I was able to graduate with a 4.0 GPA in high school. I tend to be very extroverted, so making friends at college was no issue. However, I wanted to be in a community where I knew that would be more convenient to do so, so I lived in the First-Generation Living Learning Program, which was a requirement for part of my scholarship program. I loved the program so much, I decided to stay in the community for 2 more years as a peer mentor. Without the Living Learning Program, I do not think I would be where I am today.

How did your choice of undergraduate major relate to your future career path (if at all)?

I chose to pursue a degree in communication. This major is very heavy in research, papers, and group projects. It allows you to develop your cognitive and rhetorical skills. Ultimately, I knew that in my career I wanted to pursue higher education. The dream is to be Dean of Admissions. I knew that this program would help align with my interests. You are able to learn about trends in society that make an influence across all different platforms (social media, television, Higher Education, etc.).

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

During my undergrad, I worked in a variety of jobs on campus. I was a Resident Advisor, Orientation Leader, Peer Mentor, and an Ambassador. However, one of my greatest experiences was being a tour guide. Being a representative for the University of Kentucky, and sharing your story with other families is so rewarding. Especially given my first-generation status, it helped bring a unique element to the experience that most families appreciated. I knew that this experience was something I wanted to continue having, even after college. The Visitor Center is a branch under the admissions office, so after enough time, I became familiar with those who were professional staff members in the office. After I graduated, I immediately began working full time as an Admissions Recruiter and Counselor for the University of Kentucky. To this day, I still run into families who remember me as their tour guide. It not only makes you feel good on the inside, but it reassures you that you're making a difference in families lives. That is why I continue to love what I do.

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

Without a doubt, I always have to give kudos to my parents, who helped me even get to college, and raised me on the foundation of hard works. While in college, I have to give my thanks to the staff of my scholarship program, and the First-Generation Student Advising Office. They have become my closest mentors while in undergrad, and would always inform me of great networking opportunities, volunteering events, and even helped advise me on my major. I still continue to catch up with those individuals after I graduated.

Last thoughts…

Getting involved, without a doubt, is one of the easiest ways to create a more enjoyable experience during college. I knew that I had to get involved in some way, if I wanted to begin making friends, having fun, and networking for life after college. Though my involvement tended to be in the form of jobs, it has shaped me into who I am today, and for that, I couldn't be more grateful.



Featured Advocate


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.



Featured Advocate


 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.