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!

Maria Gomez
  • Degree Program: Science and Technology Studies
  • Degree in Progress:  Ph.D.
  • Campus:  Northern Virginia Center – Falls Church Campus

To be a first-generation student in the United States can be many things. For me, it meant growing up in the Midwest with two Cuban immigrant parents, who were children themselves when they first came to this country. I had a lovely childhood, although it was marred with experiences of cultural racism. But I was lucky. I didn't internalize the bigotry because my parents were so good at keeping me focused on me and my future and, of course, family. They instilled within me a love for learning and a belief, not expectation, that I would achieve more than they did. Being a first-generation student at Virginia Tech is a continuation of that lifelong love of learning.

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
  • Degree Program: Public and International Affairs
  • Degree in Progress:  Master’s
  • Campus: Virginia Tech Research – Arlington Campus

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 student. 

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.

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