On Tuesday, November 8, 2022, as part of National First-Generation Day, Dean Chris Makaroff selected both a CAS faculty/staff first-generation advocate, Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Dominik Konkolewicz, and a CAS first-generation student, Biology major/Premedical Studies co-major Petrina Duffour, to receive special recognition for their advocacy and achievements.
The 2022 Outstanding First-Generation Advocate Award, given to Konkolewicz, recognizes an outstanding member of the College of Arts and Science faculty or staff who has made significant contributions to the success of first-generation college students through mentorship/advising, pedagogical approach, scholarly research, first-generation focus programming, and initiatives, incorporation of first-generation student success strategies into their daily work, and/or service on committees whose mission is directly related to first-generation student success.
Duffour is the recipient of the 2022 Outstanding First-Generation Student Award, which recognizes an outstanding undergraduate or graduate student from the College of Arts and Sciences who will be the first in their family to earn a four-year degree. The student selected is someone who has demonstrated excellence in leadership, scholarship, and service, as well as an unwavering determination to overcome obstacles in their pursuit of an education.
Additionally, Duffour was among four first-generation CAS students who provided their personal insights on what being first-gen means to them and their families. These students are all STEM scholars in Miami’s LSAMP Program.
Petrina Duffour (Biology and Premedical Studies):
Being a first-generation student is important to me because it has completely shaped my perspective; I now recognize every challenge or difficulty not as a limitation but as a stepping stone for perseverance as I strive towards my goals and help pave the way for others. I am the first in my family to attend college; that is not only special to my family and I, but a blessing in itself to recognize despite the challenges that arise. Furthermore, as I reflect on my years here at Miami University I can confidently say that graduating as a first-generation college student is that necessary stepping stone that will serve as a foundation in furthering my education in graduate school and beyond. As I pursue a career in the healthcare field, I hope to not only aid in diversifying the faces of medicine but I also hope to serve underrepresented communities that are so often neglected and need healthcare providers who understand the importance of advocating on their behalf in spaces that typically overlook them otherwise. Being a child of immigrants myself, I've experienced how it feels to not be heard, to not be seen, and to not be understood as one moves in a land foreign to them; it's imperative that medicine reflects the diversity of the communities it serves in all aspects, which is why graduating as a first-generation Ghanaian-American student means so much to me.
Marnina Marnina (Biology and Premedical Studies):
Being a first-generation college student means a lot to me. It’s not only a great honor, but also a responsibility. I celebrate being #firstgen because I know that I am making my family happy.
Godfred Agyemang Prempeh (Biology):
Being a first generation student is important to me as I am a role model to my siblings and want to serve as an example for them that they can do whatever they set their mind to as long as they are committed and put the time and effort into it.
Yasir Valentine (Biology and Premedical Studies):
I am proud to be a first generation college student because it not allows me to make my family happy, but to also service as hope for other students who come from similar backgrounds as me.
CAS First-Generation Student Allies
Finally, CAS asked this year’s First-Generation Student Allies to provide their perspectives on the roles they have taken to support the endeavors and achievements of our first-gen students.
Lisa Werwinski (Assistant Lecturer, Department of Statistics):
I celebrate #firstgen because a first tends to be memorable. Whether it is a first birthday, the first day of school, first day of college, or the first person in a family to earn a four-year degree, a first is always something to embrace and celebrate! First-generation college students are trailblazers, but they are certainly not alone. I love when students in my classes share that they are a first-generation students. It's a special part of their identity that I love learning more about so that I can continue to learn how to best support and encourage our first-generation students here at Miami University.
Erin Brown (Academic Advisor, College of Arts and Science):
While I am not a first-gen myself, I still celebrate and advocate for our first-gen students. Being someone who has gone through the challenges of being part of an underrepresented community I find it extremely important to help support others so that they not only feel seen but are being heard. Being the first in a new experience can also be overwhelming for some, which can be a relatable experience. Helping students find the calm in these moments can sometimes be what they need the most.
Paida Hakutangwi (LSAMP and Program Coordinator of Student Diversity Initiatives and Success, College of Arts and Science):
Although I am not a first-generation student, I celebrate them because of what they stand for – boldness into unchartered territory. As an ally who works closely with underrepresented students including first-generation students, I am aware of their challenges that are multifaceted and as a result makes for a difficult unfamiliar journey that often pushes and pulls different intersecting identities. I am here to tell you, the reward for this journey is you are the generation of change. First Gen Students, thank you for being the bold and beautiful face of the underrepresented, we see you and we are so proud of you. Don’t be afraid to share your struggles for they will definitely inspire others to embark on the same journey. And above all never forget that in this special journey, victory is written all over it, not only is it your victory, it is a victory that will benefit communities and the future generations to come: it is all because of YOU #firstgen.
Kendall Leser (Director, Public Health Program):
[I celebrate #firstgen], because being first-generation gives you a unique perspective in the classroom compared to many of your peers. Being the first person in your family to earn a college degree gives you a sense of security and independence in the workforce that your close family members likely did not have.