Making It (This Far)

By: Taylor

My freshman year is coming to an end and it’s unbelievable. When I was younger my older family members would tell me to cherish the time I had while I was young (not that I’m old now) because it was going to fly by. Like the sassy seventh grader I was I’d reply, “If it’s going to go so fast, why am I still in seventh grade?” Now, I’m writing a blog post for my college job and after this am going back to my dorm to take a nap (it’s five in the evening currently).

Coming to UMD was and has been one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made on my own. I am the fourth of six children but am the first to have moved out and away from home for college. The decision wasn’t easy, telling my parents wasn’t easy, and having all this pressure on me wasn’t easy either. I want to create this new path my two younger siblings could walk on too, and going to a big university rather than community college first and do well, nonetheless survive, is just that. College can be a rollercoaster with its highs and lows, and all I can truly give you are some pieces of advice for your first-year or for the rest of your years in college to come.

Image: Looking down on a glass jar of colored pencils on a white background.
Text: Tips for Freshman Year

Have a core friend group
I’ve met various people who wished they came to UMD knowing some people and others who were ecstatic to get a chance at a new beginning (not knowing anyone). Despite one’s preferences, making new friends or having old ones, it’s important to have close friends who you can lean on, confide in, and to establish Duluth as a new home with. I found it was heartwarming to have friends by my side I could trust and spend most of my time with.

Don’t be afraid to socialize
Whether you consider yourself an introvert or extravert, ultimately everyone else in college is hoping to make new and more friends. My first semester I closed myself off to being as open as my extravert-self could truly be and lost a lot of great opportunities to network. Realizing my faults, I’m now a Tour Guide at UMD and will be a T.A. for UMD Seminar next fall. It’s a good feeling to walk down a hall and wave to someone you know. Kirby Program Board is always hosting events on campus from movies in Bohannon 90 to the Grocery Grab Bingo, get out and be open to meeting new people!

This is your dream too
One of the things I often find myself and many other first-generation college students battling with is this idea that they’re only at college to succeed and make their parents proud. While that could be a reason to push yourself further, it’s important to remind yourself that achieving a higher education is also for yourself. We are all currently working towards a future we are going to live ourselves.

The tips listed are just a few I found helped me make the best of my first-year at UMD. While my advice has been based on my own experience and everyone’s first-year is different, I do hope you take into consideration the tips I’ve given.

Of Possible Interest:
• Navigating Through College as a First-Generation Student: Part 1 & Part 2
The Benefits of On-Campus Jobs
Getting Involved and Why

Read Taylor’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Debby Hudson

First Time at a Career Fair: A Guide for First-Generation Students

By: Tony

A couple weeks ago, I attended the UMN Job and Internship Fair for the first time. To be completely honest, I was overwhelmed and terrified. I had been to other career fairs in the past, but the sheer size of this particular fair caught me off-guard. Unfortunately, the preparation I did beforehand was not enough to make me completely ready. Being a first-generation college student (neither of my parents have received a degree from a four-year university), I do not have many of the resources my peers do, and I have not always been aware of the resources available to me. If you’re also a first-generation student, you may be in the same boat as I was, and even if you aren’t a first-generation student, career fairs are likely still intimidating. After self-reflection and re-acquainting myself with the resources offered by Career and Internship Services, I have come up with a quick guide that will prepare you for what to expect at a career fair and inform you how to put yourself in the best position possible.

Do Your Homework
Most career fairs will at least give a list of the employers that will be tabling at the career fair on their website. If you’re lucky, the organizers will also be able to provide a brief overview of what each employer is looking for in terms of majors, career field, and type of position, whether it be an internship, part-time, or full-time. Regardless, you should look through the list of employers and select a few that look interesting to you. Once you have your list, familiarize yourself with each employer. What do they produce or what services do they provide? How big are they? What recent developments have they made? Their website will be your best friend, as you can gather a lot of information on them just by browsing what they have on their site. The purpose of this is to both get an idea of what working for them may be like, as well as building up knowledge that you can impress them with later. I would also recommend formulating a question or two about each company or organization to ask the employers.

Spruce Up Your Resume
Your resume is key. Not all employers may be able to take your resume due to their human resources policies, but they are multifunctional. I’ve used my resume and seen others use theirs to inform employers about themselves and their accomplishments. I have also seen employers use resumes to explain how the attendee would fit into their company or organization, given their knowledge, experience, and interests. One time, an employer even took my resume and said that he would look at it later and send me applications for job openings in his organization that I may be interested in.

Each version of your resume should be specifically tailored to the reason why you are making it, and job fairs are no different. In the typical job fair resume, the focus will be broader than it would be for a job or internship application resume. In this case, your objective will only be as specific as the industries or fields that you wish to work within. The rest of your resume will then demonstrate why you’re qualified to work in that industry or field.

Success at the career fair, a first-generation student's guide

Work On Your Elevator Speech
An elevator speech is a quick 30-second to one-minute pitch of you. You want the employer to get a good idea of who you are as a person and potential employee. You should talk about your:

  • Name
  • Grade level
  • Major/minor
  • Strengths
  • Relevant interests

I recommend practicing your elevator speech in front of a mirror or a partner. It will likely be part of the employer’s first impression of you, and you want to make sure it’s as smooth and natural as possible

Dress Appropriately
Today’s the day. Today might be your first time interacting with your future employer after you earn your degree, no pressure. But the question on your mind is, what should I wear? Although the specific dress code and work culture will vary from employer to employer, the safe bet is to dress business professional. What does that mean exactly? Here’s a resource with some good basic information. 

Travel in a Wolf Pack
Job fairs can be intimidating when going alone, so try to go with a group to ease the tension. Of course, you should generally interact with employers one-on-one, but the shared experience of a group can reduce stress and anxiety. Personally, I like when my girlfriend comes with me for moral support. She’s always great at it, and I highly recommend having the moral support of your own if you can.

The Approach
Here it is. Everything has come down to this. Now it’s time to put together all the pieces of the puzzle and knock it out of the park. When engaging with the employer, make sure to make eye contact and give a firm handshake. Introduce yourself with your elevator speech and express interest in learning more. After the employer has given more information, pose the question(s) you have prepared. Throughout the conversation, make sure to make eye-contact, be aware of your body language, and give non-verbal cues like nodding and smiling to show that you’re paying attention and interested in what they are saying. If they are accepting resumes, give one to them, and take business cards if they have them available. Also, make sure to take note of the names of the representatives there as that is information you can mention later in a cover letter. As you depart, say nice it was to meet them and give another firm handshake. There you go, you’re done! That wasn’t too bad, right? Now go do it some more.

On-site Research
What if you see an employer that you are interested in, but are unprepared to talk with them? Fear not, you can still do some quick research on your phone so you don’t have to talk to them with little to say. Usually, there will be a student lounge where you can do this research (and relax) away from the employers.

Networking, Networking, Networking
A major component of career fairs outside of talking to employers is to talk with your peers. Networking sounds complicated, but all it entails is getting to know others and talking about your interests and goals. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” The bigger your network, the better your chances are a getting more resources and professional opportunities.

Hopefully, this advice will help you become better prepared for job fairs other career development events. I wish you the best of luck, and never hesitate to ask for assistance if you need it.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Tony’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | RawPixel

Letter to Freshman Me

By: Kimberly

As a Junior now in college there are a handful of things I wish I would have known or been told earlier in my college career. Especially when I didn’t have anyone in my primary family who completed any form of college, I had very limited resources to go to for assistance. So yes, I will admit if there was such a thing as a time machine, this is something that would be on my list to do when I travel back. I would drop this letter off to myself in hopes that it will save me from a few breakdowns and long nights. Now, I’m not saying that I had the worst experience or that it wasn’t the best thing that I went through but I still could’ve used these reminders.

Dear Freshman Me,

It’s future you, now in your junior year almost finished with college. You probably will thank yourself after you finish reading this letter but don’t take all the credit, because you’ll know who to thank once you meet them in your journey. For starters let me just reassure you this,

  1. You don’t always have to have everything figure out months before you get there and that’s completely fine.
  2. You may struggle here and there with a few courses. Not because you aren’t smart, but because sometimes it’s inevitable. It’s just one of those courses that will try to bring you down, but it doesn’t define you.
  3. You’re also going to need to step out of that bubble more often. Try new things and make new connections. It’s not as scary as you think.
  4. Most importantly, this is your learning process where you are supposed to make mistakes, it is fine if you don’t always get things right because you are still growing, learning, and most of it all getting to know who you are. (But that doesn’t mean every mistake has an excuse!)

Now you probably wondering, what in those four points have anything to do with the other people who you will encounter? Let’s just say you’ll have to do a bit more than reading this letter. If you happen to go through the campus “wedge” make sure you pay extra attention to both sides of the hall, or if you just try emailing and reaching out to others they are more than willing to help. Also in the wedge, there’s this office that offers these “assessments” you’ll eventually find out about and take, which will give you some more reassurance. You’ll also be surprised to know that your professors would like it if you go to their office hours. It doesn’t even have to be for help but because you can build good relationships with them. A little birdy even told me they have connections with employers.

So, save the breakdowns. I can’t give away everything to you because, if I did, that wouldn’t be nearly as helpful as letting you learn for yourself too. With this, seek out your resources even if that means having to do a little extra work and know that there is no such thing as a “norm” in college. Everyone has their own path at their own pace.

Sincerely,
You

Of Possible Interest:
Navigating Through College as a First-Generation Student Part 1 & Part 2

Read Kimberly’s other posts

Why Major in Communication at UMD

By: David

As a double major, one day you will eventually have to prioritize your majors one over the other. In talking with students with a double major, this is typically the case (though not always) with students having the second major supporting their primary major. For me personally, I would say this is especially true with degrees in Communication and Psychology. My main area of focus being Communication and my supporting major being Psychology. In today’s post, I want to highlight the wonders of the Department of Communication here at UMD and why it truly is a “diamond in the rough.” After having conversations with Department Head, Dr. David Gore, Associate Professor Dr. Ryan Goei, and Director of Internships for Communication, Alastair Knowles, I was able to gather an abundance of information from all three in highlighting the Communication department. With that being said, let’s begin!

Overview of the Communication Discipline  

In order to understand the Communication department here at UMD, I find it important to understand the Communication discipline altogether. Generally, Communication programs will have a mixture or divide of the social sciences and humanities (also known as rhetoric in the Communication discipline). You can think of the two as different processes or approaches to communication. On one end, social scientists seek to observe the present, they prefer data, numbers, and statistics where findings can be generalize to the broader population and are concerned with what can be observed in reality. On the opposite end, rhetoricians seek to understand human nature versus predicting it, they prefer concepts related to philosophy, history, and context, and require one core element – the human experience.

In expanding on this topic of social science and rhetoric, let’s explore the concept of fear appeals as an example. A social scientist might look into fear appeals and analyze the effectiveness of fear appeals on people and its ability to persuade. On the other hand, a rhetorician may look at fear appeals, and instead of analyzing the effectiveness, will analyze the ethics of using fear appeals overall. To end, I like to think of social science and rhetoric as an objective and subjective approach to understanding communication. Social science being the objective, while rhetoric being the subjective. Now that we have a basic understanding of the communication discipline as a whole, let’s explore the elements of UMD’s Communication program.

Why Comm

What makes UMD’s Program So Unique and Special?

(1) Healthy Balance of Social Science & Rhetoric
After explaining the two approaches to Communication, one can easily see how a divide or rift may quickly emerge within Communication programs. Fortunately, the professional environment here in the Communication department is one that is quite healthy and friendly where faculty members are open and respectful to one another’s approach to communication. The faculty here see the value in BOTH perspectives and therefore the program creates a flexibility of the mind. Additionally, as a generalist program that offers and requires courses in both approaches students in the program can pick whichever route they prefer. This is possible due to the program being an open-minded program and thus offering a variety of elective courses.  

(2) Top Tier Faculty Members
For starters, UMD attracts some of the best Communication scholars across the nation (and I’m not just saying that out of my own bias, it’s true!). With current scholars contributing major research to their fields to individuals previously winning “Dissertation of the Year” awards to professors writing top papers on a national AND international scale, they are here at the UMD Communication Department. Here’s a list of the faculty recognition in the past decade.

(3) Research & Faculty Mentorship
Despite being a satellite campus of the University of Minnesota, UMD is an extremely unique institution as a whole due to its high level of research productivity and its student population consisting mainly of undergraduate students. Commonly, a high performing research institution would consist of numerous graduate programs and a high percentage of graduate students conducting outstanding research. Here at UMD, we have 90% of our students who are at the undergraduate level, yet still conducting research just as valuable as other top-tier research institutions.

With this unique dynamic of undergraduate students and high caliber faculty, students in the Communication department have direct access to these professors who conduct top-notch quality research. In comparison to other schools, typically this is not the case as top-tier research institutions would require graduate students (MA, Ph.D candidates) to teach these courses with zero to limited access to the professors. To conclude, UMD is best known for its engineering and business programs, and typically not acknowledged for its programs in the social sciences and humanities. As a student in the humanities & social sciences, I will confirm and say that it definitely requires a lot of digging in terms of finding the hidden specialty and uniqueness surrounding these programs like the Communication program here at UMD. That is why it truly is a “diamond in the rough.”

(4) Internships
So what happens if you’re not into academia, scholarship, or research? Well, lucky for you there are opportunities to find hands-on experience through the Communication Internship Program. Ultimately, the program has two objectives, (1) provide students with opportunities to apply what they’re learning in the classroom into the real world, and (2) provide students with opportunities to acquire internships related to a career occupation that they find interesting. In addition to the two, starting the Fall semester of this year, the Communication Internship Program will be implementing a new course in which it will better prepare students for the internship process. Before ending, if you would like to learn more or are having trouble finding a good place to start in terms of internships, you can always refer to the Communication Internship Program comprehensive web page, or better yet, set up an appointment to meet with Alastair Knowles.

David Quote

Final Thoughts & Reflection

In closing, I would like to sum up by talking about my personal experiences and self-reflection. Coming into college as Undecided, I was the type of student who wanted to do everything and had a very hard time deciding a major. Eventually, I would stick to Communication after my first semester taking “Intercultural Communication” and since then have never regretted that decision. As I slowly progressed through the program, I was fortunate to take courses with different instructors and professors who I found to be extremely inspiring and brilliant. Their teaching philosophies, passion for research, and devotion for students motivated me to acquire a hunger to learn more about being an effective and efficient communicator in addition to being a charismatic leader.

Throughout my time here at UMD I would say that many of my favorite professors are mostly, if not all, from the Communication department. As I mentioned in my recent blog posts, my experience as a first-generation student has been a significant factor to my college experience altogether. As a first-gen student, there were many moments of insecurity in terms of my academics and intellectual capabilities, but that changed every time I came around the COMM department. Essentially, the COMM department became my safe haven to learn and discuss freely about ideas, history, theories, and communication in practice. The conversations, guidance, and criticism from my professors were all key components to my intellectual and personal growth.

In ending, I know I’m biased when I say that the Communication department here at UMD is perhaps the best program at UMD. But my main point for you, my readers and peers, is to find a program you can be excited about when entering your classes and be hungry to learn in whichever topic or topics interest you most. More than often do I see my peers or other students who come into college and zoom right through to get their degrees and start working right away, but if we just take the time to slow down, relax, and enjoy the time that we’re here the end result will be much more meaningful. Talk to your professors, explore related theories, criticize past research, or even conduct your own research. You never know what you’re truly capable of until you try, and it always helps to have a mentor guide you to your true potential.  

Read David’s other posts

Photo source: Unsplash | Aaron Burden

Navigating Through College as a First-Generation Student, Part II

By: David

From the previous post I had written, I took up on the concept of the experiences of first-generation students (FGS) and decided that I would elaborate on my own experiences as a first-generation student. From the previous post, I mentioned the two ways that helped me through college were: (1) capitalizing on campus resources & opportunities and (2) connecting with staff and faculty. Today, I’ll be exploring on two more ways that really helped me in navigating through college. With that being said, let’s dive in!

Navigating as First Gen 2

Finding a Social Network
For any student entering college, it is crucial to connect with a community or group of individuals who they can socialize and find support within. As an FGS, it becomes especially difficult since there is no prior knowledge of the college environment and thus creates a barrier in finding a social network to connect with. Fortunately, most college campuses give students the opportunity to find social networks to get involved in, whether it’s Greek Life, student organizations, academic opportunities, employment, etc.

For me personally, the most difficult part about finding social networks was actually connecting with other students. Granted, I came to college and roomed with 3 of my friends from high school, but I still had the desire to branch out and network with other students. Finding a social network was not easy and required a lot of trial and error. After my first Student Activities Fair, I was so excited to join the various organizations I had interacted with, but was quite disappointed when attending many of their meetings and events because I simply didn’t feel like I belong. My turning point came when I made the effort to get involved with the Multicultural Center. As a student of color myself, there were a lot of similarities I could identify with and reasons to get involved. It truly helped me find a social network with Asian Pacific American Association (which I have mentioned about numerous times in previous blog posts!). To segway into my next point, what worked best for me in terms of expanding my social networks was to get involved on campus!

Getting Involved!
If you’ve read my previous posts, you know by now that I am a HUGE advocate for getting involved on campus. Ultimately, my college experience has tremendously shaped my ability to navigate through college. Join a student organization, find on-campus employment, participate in events and activities hosted by the university, and conduct or assist with research in your academic department. These are SOME (many more out there) examples of getting involved on campus. So why get involved you ask? From the previous 3 points (capitalizing on opportunities, connecting with staff & faculty, finding social networks) I made in this blog series, getting involved is the best way to tie all of these together. I say this because through getting involved you pretty much cover all three areas and it is something tangible, or an action that anyone can make in terms of navigating through college.

My first year coming into college, I recall seeing a poster (you know, those inspirational quotes with the pretty pictures?) in a staff member’s office that greatly shaped my college philosophy. The poster quoted, “build bridges, not walls” and it had the most mesmerizing picture of a bridge I’ve ever seen. My point is, after reading that quote along with the captivating bridge, my philosophy was (and still is) to connect with as many students, staff, and faculty as I could before graduating. In doing so, I took up as many positions and opportunities as I could to branch out and expand my horizon of knowledge. In truth, this required me having to step outside my comfort zones and it was difficult at first I’ll admit; but as I reflect on my experiences, those moments of insecurity and vulnerability only allowed me to grow at a rapid rate professionally and personally. Being first-generation, it didn’t help that I didn’t have the knowledge or capabilities to interact and connect with others as I had wished, and often times I didn’t know what I needed or wanted to know. Life was rough, I tell ya. Fortunately, direct experience in leadership positions and active involvement really gave me a deep sense of knowledge and skills.

Conclusion
To wrap things up, I want to say that I am aware and sensitive to the fact that these four ways of navigating through college as an FGS might not be for everyone and that there are a lot of other ways to do so. By keeping things broad, I hope it helps push you to find your own way in succeeding throughout college. On a side note, I have come to observe the relationship between first-gen students and the university (campus life programs, academic programs, etc.). My conclusion is that the two have to meet in the middle. Students need to take an active role in securing (or at least attempt) these opportunities and services offered and be willing to step outside their comfort zones. On the flipside, the university needs to actively promote their services so students know what’s available to them and in addition, explicitly state their sensitivity and awareness of first-generation students.

My final tip for other first-generation students in navigating through college is this: be humble and open-minded. As an FGS, I understand that there is, to some degree, a sense of pride in NOT seeking help or assistance when struggling. The source of pride may vary from student to student, but it definitely exists. Furthermore, it is important to be vulnerable and allow room for constructive criticism and learning moments for your growth. This is more of a life tip, but keep your thoughts open to different perspectives to further expand your own and reserve judgement until proven. Stay warm Bulldogs!

Read David’s other posts

Photo source: Unsplash | Richard Tilney-Bassett

Navigating through College as a First-Generation Student

By: David

As a first-generation student, the struggles and barriers of navigating through college can often be difficult and strenuous. Scholarships, finances, campus resources, college courses, communication with faculty & staff, you name it. So what defines a first-generation college student? Well, according to a research article published by Maietta back in November, she states, “The two most widely used definitions of FG college students are 1) those students whose parents matriculated, but never graduated with a bachelor’s degree and 2) those students whose parents never persisted past a high school diploma.” (Maietta, 2016). My parents came to the U.S. as immigrants after the Vietnam War never achieved a college degree, therefore I, myself, am a first-generation college student. In today’s post, I’ll be highlighting my experience as a first-generation student (FGS) and how I have navigated through college. With that being said, let’s get started!

david-first-gen

Capitalizing on Campus Resources & Opportunities  

The most significant method for me in navigating through college as an FGS was to capitalize on opportunities and resources provided by departments, student organizations, and offices around campus. More than often, I find that students take these opportunities and resources for granted and make zero effort in leveraging these amazing resources to benefit their college career. From my experience in working in various departments and offices around campus, I have come to realize one thing and that is that the folks who work and operate in a campus setting are all dedicated to helping students. In other words, USE YOUR CAMPUS RESOURCES! Check out the amazing opportunities and resources through academic and campus life departments.

Though this is a case where it is easier said than done to actually capitalize on these opportunities and resources, I would like to chime in on my thoughts and feelings as an FGS. Coming into college, I was very hesitant in using and seeking out campus resources and opportunities. One reason was that I simply felt bad for just using the resources available. Personally, I hate the feeling and concept of using someone to benefit myself and that’s exactly how it felt like at first when using these campus resources. To me, it didn’t feel right setting up meetings and appointments to talk over the things that benefitted me only. My turning point with this mentality was when I first got involved with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) in my second semester of my first year. Through a series of activities and meetings with the ODI staff and student organizations, I was able to gain this trust and understanding that staff and faculty alike are here to serve students because they love doing that exactly. Once I understood that, my experiences as an FGS totally flipped 180 degrees for the better.

Connecting with Staff & Faculty

In addition to leveraging campus resources and opportunities, another asset that truly helped me was connecting with the staff and faculty on campus. Setting up to meet with career counselors, attending office hours, asking career related questions, self-disclosing about troubles as an under-representative minority, the list goes on. I cannot recall how many times where I’ve sought out support and guidance from staff and faculty in situations of dilemma. As the first one to attend college, I don’t have many personal connections to rely on in terms of understanding the college life. Thankfully, I’m extremely fortunate to have found a support system that was able to help me navigate through college when I felt stuck and alone in regards to college life. An important thing to keep in mind as an FGS though is that my positive results required me to take action and make the first step in asking staff and faculty members for support. I realize that it was often hard for my faculty members or staff to realize that I was struggling, and therefore required me to put my pride down and ask for help. I think this is common as well in FGS as this sense of pride is something that is often hard to overcome in a college setting. In closing, staff and faculty members are the pillars of support & generators of knowledge and serve as role models & mentors for ALL students and are folks who students seek for motivation and inspiration. From personal to professional development, the staff and faculty members of campus are the keepers of wisdom that guide students to success through moral and academic support.

Conclusion

With that being said, my experiences as an FGS are not limited and exclusive to just campus resources/opportunities and connecting to staff and faculty. Stick around for next time as I’ll continue forth in sharing more personal experiences as a first-generation student. In the next post, one key concept will focus on the importance of social groups and how important it is to have them. Until next time, I urge you to start thinking about your social groups, how you came to establish them, and what role you and your peers serve within the group. As always, stay gold friends!

Of Possible Interest:
Maietta, H. (2016). Unfamiliar Territory: Meeting the Career Development Needs of
First-Generation College Students. National Association of Colleges and Employers Journal.

Read David’s other posts