One in four University of Nebraska students are the first members of their family to pursue higher education. For these first-generation Huskers, college is a new and exciting experience. But it can also be quite daunting.
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln supports those students through First Generation Nebraska, an initiative that connects students with faculty and staff who were also first-gen students. Those students can also participate in First Husker, which provides support and peer mentorship.
In observance of National First-Generation Celebration Day on Nov. 8, two first-gen Huskers — junior Maddie Swanson and Chancellor Ronnie Green — sat down for a conversation on their Big Red campus experiences. Read their chat below.
Green: So, Maddie, you’re a first-generation college student. I am, too. Congratulations on taking on that challenge and being successful here at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. You’re from Laurel, Nebraska, and interested in being a veterinarian — how’s that going?
Swanson: It’s going pretty good so far. I’m getting a lot of work experience in the field, and that’s very rewarding.
Green: As a first-gen student, what made you make the decision to pursue your university education?
Swanson: There’s actually quite a few factors. One of them was my family. They’ve never limited me in what I want to do; they really pushed me to be the best I can be and reach for all of my goals. To be a veterinarian, I need higher education, so they really pushed me to go to college. Another factor was myself. When I looked at my life, I didn’t think I’d be happy not pursuing higher education, furthering myself as a person. The younger people coming after me in my family look up to me, and I want to be a role model for them. I’m the youngest sibling of my sister and I, but I have a lot of younger cousins.
Green: You have been part of the First Husker program here at the university. What has that been like?
Swanson: They have been a saving grace for me. Coming from a small town and coming to a bigger city, it was kind of a culture shock. When I came to campus early, they indulged all of my questions. They helped me find my resources on campus. They helped me adjust. When I ran into problems, they were the first people I contacted and they were there day or night and it was really a saving grace. I’m also a peer mentor for that program now, so I’m able to help the new first-gen students coming in as well.
Green: I understand what that’s like, because I remember being a first-gen student. I remember all my friends seemed to know how all this worked, and I had to kind of figure it out. So, congratulations on your success.