June 13, 2013

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By Molly O'Brien-Foelsch


LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell University has launched a new web area and YouTube playlist featuring the stories of first-generation faculty, staff and students, whose parents did not attain four-year degrees.

Bucknell president John Bravman was the first to sit down for an interview. A first-generation college student and second-generation American, he said he didn't have a family framework that prepared him for the challenges and excitement of college. He said that in college he was "exposed to people, to ways of thinking, to places around the globe that I had never, ever experienced before." || View President Bravman's video

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Emily Geist was a first-generation college student in the Bucknell Class of 2003. She said the college search was exciting and nerve-wracking for her, but she learned to ask lots of questions on her tours of campuses, and she suggests other first-generation students do the same.

Bucknell junior Mike Ajjan recounted the first time he took the SAT, when he forgot his calculator. "The second time, I did a lot better," he said. "In the time that I've been here, one of the things that I've learned that I'd like to pass on to other students is don't be afraid to make mistakes, and don't be afraid to ask. When you make mistakes, you learn."

Several faculty and staff members have offered written testimonials. Among them, Douglas Candland, Homer P. Rainey professor emeritus of psychology and animal behavior, who after high school joined the California Conservation Corps, picking weeds alongside prisoners until an admissions counselor from a nearby college sought him out. Candland's college experiences led him to become a renowned scholar in of animal behavior. || Read written testimonials

The first-generation video series and web area was inspired by the I'm First campaign, an emerging initiative of the Center for Student Opportunity. Last fall, the center asked its partner colleges, including Bucknell, to encourage members of their campus communities upload to its site videos of first-generation student testimonials. The site is currently in beta mode, and CSO plans to do a full launch next fall. CSO executive director Matt Rubinoff said he hopes the Bucknell project becomes a model for other colleges and universities.