Today @ Colorado State has been replaced by SOURCE. This site exists as an archive of Today @ Colorado State stories between January 1, 2009 and September 8, 2014.

Awards / Honors

First Generation Faculty Project seeks to connect first-generation faculty with first-generation students

February 17, 2012

After attending the annual First Generation Award Recognition Celebration, CSU faculty member Pamela Jackson (currently serving as Director of Communications for the Bohemian Foundation) added a line to her e-mail signature to read “First Generation Faculty.” Soon after that, during an e-mail exchange with a first-year student who was also a first-generation student, she made a meaningful and lasting connection.

“Those kinds of experiences,” Jackson said, “have been the most emotionally rewarding experiences I have had at Colorado State.”

One of the challenges faced by first-generation students is the lack of role models or “connecting points” to help provide both inspiration and confidence that success is possible, despite living in a new and sometimes daunting environment. Among our faculty are many who were the first in their family to complete a bachelor’s degree. Perhaps you are one of them. If so, we’d like to invite you to be part of the First Generation Faculty Project.


In December 2008, CSU launched its First Generation Faculty Project. Since then, a group has been formed of first-generation faculty who would like to serve as role models and/or connecting points for our current first generation students as well as to students who have yet to consider the pursuit of education beyond high school. While we recognize and respect how busy faculty are, there are a variety of ways you can become involved that could have a big impact on a first-generation student’s CSU experience while not taking much of your time.

As President Tony Frank wrote in his message to faculty earlier this week, “First-generation college students represent an important aspect of Colorado State University’s access mission, an historical area of emphasis and pride, and a growing demographic group which we must serve more effectively if we are to fulfill our mission as a land-grant university.”

First Generation Award

As one of the first major universities in the country to recognize the needs of first generation students, CSU created the First Generation Award in 1984. Data show that first-generation award recipients outperform other students. And since 1984, hundreds have successfully graduated and gone on to become leaders in every aspect of society.

Each year, a First Generation Award Recognition Celebration is held to honor the personal and academic achievements of First Generation Award scholars and CSU's commitment to encourage students from all backgrounds to complete their education.

This year’s dinner, held Feb. 16, honored the following Jackson Distinguished First Generation Scholars:

  • Josh Chotiner
  • James DeHerrera
  • Gemara Gifford
  • Garrett Hayes

It also honored a recent FGA graduate, Vanessa Trujillo, who was slated to be honored at the 2011 celebration but was still hospitalized after a January 2011 near-fatal accident and was unable to attend. Ms. Trujillo returned to campus in the fall and completed her Business degree on Dec. 17.

Members join in the celebrations

Also in attendance at the awards dinner were members of this First Generation Faculty Project. Several hosted tables, became faculty mentors to first generation students, networked with students and families, and shared their own personal stories. They told anecdotes of their college experience – some humorous, some inspirational, some both. They told their success stories and how their lives have been changed immeasurably by obtaining a college education and beyond. And they provided advice for first-generation students and their families. It is our hope that their accomplishments can serve as a springboard to many others.

Other ways in which first-generation faculty can become involved include:

  • serving on the First Generation Scholarship Awards Committee,
  • contributing to the First Generation Program fund,
  • being featured on CSU’s Diversity website,
  • serving as a resource for current students,
  • providing undergraduate research opportunities for first generation students,
  • participating in prospective student events, or
  • simply taking a first generation student to lunch.

The First Generation Faculty Committee also meets once each semester to socialize and network, recognize contributions, and share stories.

If you would like to become involved in the First Generation Faculty Committee, please contact Mary Ontiveros, Vice President for Diversity, at, 491-7197.

Thank you for your efforts in helping CSU fulfill its mission and for providing support for CSU first-generation students.

Contact: Rod Higgins
Phone: 970-491-2297