MURRAY — Murray State University took the opportunity to recognize first-generation students on their campus Thursday, during an inaugural event held in Waterfield Library Thursday morning.
There, MSU President Bob Jackson and Vice President for Student Affairs Don Robertson spoke with members of the student population that account for nearly half of the students on the MSU campus. Students also talked with members of faculty about the myriad of resources available to first-generation students.
“I am a first-generation college student too, and many of the administrators you are going to talk to are as well,” Jackson said. “When I came here 37 years ago, two things that were important to me as a first-generation student – one was to find a mentor, it could be a professor, a staff member or a family member, but find a mentor, someone you can talk to about academics, careers, just someone to talk to. Many times as a first-generation student, you aren’t always able to get that assistance from your family.”
The other bit of advice Jackson had to students was to get involved in campus activities.
“Get involved … it makes a huge difference,” Jackson said. “Students who are involved on campus graduate, they are happier, they stay longer and we retain those students. It doesn’t matter what activity, but get outside your comfort zone and be involved in different activities. I think we have about 180 different clubs and organizations. About anything you can think of, we will offer here.”
Jackson said his involvement in student organizations, including student government, Greek life and other organizations were good experiences. Those experiences helped create a better path forward, he said.
“This is significant to me because I also am a first-generation student,” Robertson said. “When I went to the University of North Carolina, I was the first in my family to ever go to college. I was excited, but I also had a lot of anxiety and didn’t quite know what to expect. It was a proud moment for me, but it was an equally proud moment for my parents and my family, and I am sure that is the case for all of you.
“Having someone to assist you is very important, so take advantage of those resources,” Robertson said. “It is important to feel comfortable asking for assistance — it is OK to ask questions.”
Robertson said that of the current freshman class, roughly 42% of those students are first-generation students. First-gen students also account for 47% of the total students population at MSU. Robertson echoed the need for students to take advantage of faculty and university resources to make sure that students are not only the first to attend college, but the first to graduate with a degree.
“As proud as you are now and as excited as you are now to be here, and as proud as your parents and family are, I can guarantee you, on graduation day when you are receiving your diploma, that is going to be a very significant day for you and your family,” Robertson said.