Virginia Tech® home

Celebrating First-Generation Graduate Students at Virginia Tech!

November 8th was selected as the date for the annual National First-Generation College Celebration to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965.  

What is First-Generation at Virginia Tech?

At Virginia Tech, a student is identified as a first-generation student if neither parent/guardian has earned a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university in the United States.

Meet our First-Generation graduate students in the spotlight!

My personal experience while at Virginia Tech is an invaluable part of my growth as the individual and the professional that I am today. Having emigrated from my native Mexico at age 12, I was the first in my family to graduate college earning my degree in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech. Although, it has been rewarding, it wasn’t always smooth sailing as I faced many challenges along the way. During my academic career, my parents worked 2 to 3 jobs to pay for  all of my education and I also worked during my breaks from college in order to help them as I did not qualify for loans or most scholarships as an immigrant. However, fast forward to 2011 and I can tell you that graduating college as an aerospace engineer was one of the proudest moments of my life and most fulfilling for my parents. Perhaps because it was a moment of vindication. My parents have always been my greatest source of inspiration and they have instilled in me the value of a college education and their dream for a better life for my siblings and myself. Now my younger brother is a proud Hokie and a Business Major at Virginia Tech, so is my eldest niece who is in the Honors College and hopefully the next generation in our family will also be inspired. Today, I am seeking a new challenge, to be the first in my family to obtain a graduate degree and the best place to accomplish this is at my alma matter, Virginia Tech. I can certainly say that I am proud to be a first-generation graduate student!


Degree in progress: Master’s in Business Administration – MBA

Department: Pamplin College of Business

Campus: Northern Virginia Center

Simply put, being a First-Generation student means to pursue the legacy of those who came before you and to inspire those who come after you.

As a black woman from the small town of Portsmouth, Virginia, I know how large of an impact I can make for the communities I am a part of. Of course, there are hardships and obstacles that I face by being a first-generation student but there are so many more benefits that come with it as well! Without the privilege of having a parent that had gone to college before me, I am challenged to walk seemingly uncharted territory. I was able to overcome this obstacle as an Engineering student at Norfolk State University and am grateful to embark on this journey as a first-generation graduate student here at Virginia Tech!


Degree Program: Computer Engineering

Degree in Progress: Master’s

Campus: Virginia Tech Research – Arlington Campus


Kiara Davis
  • Degree:  Masters
  • Degree Program:  Executive Masters of Natural Resources (XNMR)
  • Campus: Virginia Tech Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability, Arlington Campus

Being a first generation college student means a lot to me. Having the willingness to break generational curses and set new standards for my family is something a lot of people do not have the chance to do. The academic system can be overwhelming and sometimes feels like it was not meant for you, but being able to persevere and finish something no one in your family has is an enormous accomplishment. Being a first generation college student gives genuine, intrinsic desire to have a better life through higher education.

Amina Abass
  • Degree Program:  Business Administration
  • Degree in Progress:  Master’s
  • Campus:  Northern Virginia Center – Falls Church Campus

Being a first generation student to me means that I am setting the path both intentionally and unintentionally for those close to me. I am currently into my second Master's degree, so transitioning to the evening MBA program at Virginia Tech has been smooth. ''I am because we are'', is the Ubuntu philosophy I resonate with so well, I know changing the cycle does not mean doing it all by myself hence taken advantage of the resources around me. My advice to other students would be: find your vision, take pride in taking the lead, remember you are not alone and most importantly be your authentic self.

Tyler Wedrosky

I come from a working class-family in Washington State. Growing up, I recall that my parents would say, from time to time, that they want more for in me in life than they ever had. I think part of the challenge of being a first-generation graduate degree student is honoring that notion while successfully navigating the elite space that is graduate school. To be frank, it is nothing like I have been accustomed to before. Fostering a sense of community; and doing the best to navigate that contradiction is why I am proud to be a first-generation graduate degree alumnus.

Degree Program: Public and International Affairs

Degree in Progress: Master’s

Campus: Virginia Tech Research – Arlington Campus

Stephanie Cifuentes
  • Degree Program: Business Administration
  • Degree in Progress:  Master’s
  • Campus:  Northern Virginia Center – Falls Church Campus

My parents came to this country in the 1980s from Bolivia. They couldn’t speak the language. They didn’t understand the system. And yet they persevered. They built a business that allowed me to get a bachelor's degree in Public Relations, a Master's degree in Corporate Communication and now I work towards an MBA at Virginia Tech. As I navigate Corporate America without the benefit of a guide, I know I’m paving the way for my children, my “baby cousins”, my nieces, and my nephews. If I have to go ahead alone to show them and other Latinx kids the way to find their seat in corporate America, So