Purdue Engineering joins in 2019 First Generation College Celebration

Purdue Engineering will join other institutions around the country from November 4-8 to celebrate First Generation College Awareness Week, to honor the presence and experiences of this important population of first-generation college students, faculty, and staff.

Proud First Gen button Look for Boilermakers wearing Proud First Generation buttons during the week. 

This annual celebration, now in its third year nationally, will culminate on Nov. 8 to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. This act was a major victory during President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty.

Purdue Engineering is proud of the 1070 undergraduate engineering students who have identified as First Generation college students this fall, 11% of Purdue's total undergraduate enrollment.

Purdue Engineering introduces you to those in our college who have pioneered as First Generation college students and succeeded in their fields in spite of many challenges. You may be surprised to discover who they are.   

Featured Purdue Engineering First Generation college graduates are:


Name: Kelly Andronicos

Hometown: Gadsden, AL

Degree: BA Fine Arts, University of New Mexico

Advice: Nothing takes the place of persistence.

Name: Christine Babick

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Degrees: BA, Communications Theory/Media Studies; New York University; MA, Linguistics, Columbia University

Advice: Be guided by your role models, but remember that you have your own talents, special qualities, and unique gifts to give to the world.

Name: Sue Bayley

Hometown: West Lafayette, IN

Degree: BA Elementary Education, Purdue

Advice: To those who teach first generation students - respect their insecurities by teaching them to respect their capabilities.

Name: Ed Berger

Hometown: Bethlehem, PA

Degrees: BS and MS, Penn State; PhD Purdue, all in Mechanical Engineering

Advice: Work hard to strike a balance between (a) your independence and striving to do things on your own, by your own hard work and dedication, and (b) the availability of all manner of support resources on campus.

Name: Carol Brock

Hometown: Wayne, MI

Degrees: BS English Literature, Eastern Michigan University

Advice: Always push yourself father than you think you can go and never give up. Trust your instincts and be yourself.

Name: Patrick Brunese

Hometown: Millerton, NY

Degrees: BSIE, Western New England College; MSIE, The University of Alabama; PhD Purdue

Advice: Reflect on your university experience early and often. Find gaps/pain points, and then find people who can help provide direction. There are so many resources at a university that will be unknown to you that can help you maximize your potential.

Name: Barrett Caldwell

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Degrees: SB in Aeronautics & Astronautics and Humanities, MIT; MA and PhD in Social Psychology, Univ. of CA-Davis

Advice: After you’ve spent some time in academia, it’s hard to remember that most people don’t know what academia really is about, especially grad school. It’s a different world, and 1st gen folks are explorers. Don’t expect others to always understand your path, but also don’t assume that difficulties or roadblocks mean that you shouldn’t be on that path or that the difficulties are necessarily directed ‘at’ you.

Name: Marsha Freeland

Hometown: West Lafayette, IN

Degrees: BS Management/Human Resources, Ball State University; MS Organizational Leadership, Purdue

Advice: Don’t worry if you’re uncertain about which engineering discipline is right for you. First Year Engineering and career advising available in the college and on campus can help you figure it out.

Name: Amy Glenn

Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO

Degrees: BS Organizational Leadership; MS Industrial Distribution, both Purdue

Advice: My advice for any 1st Gen Student is to believe in yourself. You would not have been admitted into Purdue unless you already have the skills and abilities to succeed. You can do this! Remember that though they may not know how to express; your family is very proud of you for taking this step to pursue a college degree.

Name: Elizabeth Gray

Hometown: Renssalaer, IN

Degrees: BA from Saint Joseph’s College & MLS (Master of Library Science) from Indiana University

Advice: It takes hard work to get this far, but remember to take a break and have fun. Often the moments of downtime prepare you for life more than the fleeting moments in the classroom.

Name: Beth Holloway

Hometown: Burlington, WI

Degrees: BSME, MSME, PhD ENE, all from Purdue

Advice: Successes and failures are just feedback on a process. If you see them both as opportunities to learn more about yourself, how you do your work, and what affects outcomes, you will learn what you need to accomplish what you want.

Name: Leah Jamieson

Hometown: Trenton, NJ

Degrees: BS Mathematics, MIT; MA, MSE, and PhD Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Princeton University

Advice: Seek out opportunities to explore your major beyond the traditional courses, find things you love, and make them a part of your experience at Purdue, your sense of who you are, and your life.

Name: Brent K. Jesiek

Hometown: Holland, MI

Degrees: BS, Electrical Engineering, Michigan Tech; MS and PhD, Science and Technology Studies, Virginia Tech

Advice: Get involved and connected! I attribute much of my success in higher education to being active in multiple student organizations, and developing a strong network of friends and peers who support one another personally and academically.

Name: Martin Jischke

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Degrees: BS Physics, IIT; MS and PhD, Aero, MIT

Advice: Study hard and ask for help when you need it.

Name: Tamara Kinzer-Ursem

Hometown: Hicksville, OH

Degrees: BS Bioengineering, University of Toledo; MS and PhD Chemical Engineering, both from University of Michigan

Advice: Throughout college, I always had a sense that I had to work harder than my peers to stay\ ahead - studying harder to grasp the concepts, working a 20+ hour part-time job to help pay for college, etc. These experiences helped me get where I am today and are still a source of great pride for me. It wasn’t until I sought to develop relationships, especially with my professors, did I receive the support and most importantly the encouragement, that I needed to take the next steps in my career development.

Name: Steven J. Landry

Hometown: Medway, MA

Degrees: BS Electrical Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute; SM Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT; PhD Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

Advice: Ideally, 1st gen status has little or no effect on you, because it’s never been made a big deal by anyone. But it often does affect your motivation (why you want to accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish), in that you often are motivated to achieve what you think others want you to achieve, and that can different than that which you want to accomplish. Be led by internal motivation and not by such external motivation.

Name: Amanda Limiac

Hometown: Dayton, OH

Degrees: BS Water Resources-Chemistry Track, Heidelberg (OH) University; MS Agricultural & Biological Engineering, Purdue

Advice: Apply for any and all scholarships you find, no matter how big or small or what the requirements are. Don't be afraid to try something new that might be interesting to you. The first job doesn't have to be the last! Get your foot in a door and then move and shift as necessary until you find the job that really makes you happy.

Name: Tim Luzader

Hometown: Salem, WV

Degrees: BS College of Arts and Sciences; MA Counseling Psychology, both West Virginia University

Advice: Building a support system on campus made a difference in my success. Finding fellow students and advisors with common interests, and developing a strong rapport with them, will likely be very helpful to you as well. Also, when professors announce office hours, they really do mean it and want to know you and be helpful. Plan to drop by and see them.

Name: Stephanie McKinley

Hometown: Star City, IN

Degree: BS Tourism, Convention, and Event Management, IUPUI

Advice: Being a 1 gen student is something to be proud of. You are paving the way for your future children and grandchildren. Not only does it make your parents proud, it should make you proud, too. It is no easy feat and it doesn’t matter what you are majoring in. It can be stressful at times (especially since your parents never went through it), but look around and you will find there are a lot of 1st gen students going through the same thing. Talk to them if you have questions or doubts during your college career.

Name: Sara Winnike McMillan

Hometown: West Point, Iowa

Degree: Civil & Environmental Engineering (BS in 1997; MS in 1998) both from University of Iowa Worked in environmental consulting industry from 1998-2002 Environmental Sciences & Engineering (PhD in 2007) University of North Carolina

Advice: To first-gen students: Be proud of your story and the path you took to get here. Stay connected to your family and friends at home, but build your support network at college too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, many have been in your shoes and are willing to help.

Name: Nathan Mosier

Hometown: Davenport, Nebraska

Degrees: BS Biological Systems Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; MS and PhD in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, both Purdue

Advice: Find helpful professors and staff and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Universities seem like big places, but there are smaller communities to there. Find them and join in! Clubs, student organization, and departmental organizations are great places to find friends and mentors.

Name: Moses Olayemi

Hometown: Imoore Village, Amuwo-Odofin, Nigeria

Degree: BS University of Lagos (Nigeria)

Advice: With every milestone you achieve, you're laying a foundation that unborn generations will build upon. Make it a good one.

Name: Mary Pilotte

Hometown: Lafayette, IN

Degrees: BS Organizational Leadership and Supervision, Purdue; MBA Emory University; PhD Engineering Education, Purdue

Advice: There will be days that you will doubt your suitability to be here and will wonder if it would be better, safer, easier to just follow the same path as everyone you know. Know you are not alone in having that thought. Yet dig deep and press through the tough days, as each one serves as an example of your fitness and is paving a new beautiful road for others behind you to follow. You are not only changing the trajectory of your life with each passing day, but you are changing the trajectory of their dreams.

Name: Tim Rogers

Hometown: Chester, NS, Canada

Degrees: BEng, McGill University; PhD, University of British Columbia

Advice: Don’t be discouraged by holes in your preparation. Everybody has them. Remember that these holes can be filled. Your ability got you where you are and you have a unique perspective that others may lack. Use this to your advantage and never give up.

Name: Tammy Siemers

Hometown: Marion, IN

Degree: BA Communications and Advertising, Purdue

Advice: Make sure to utilize the wealth or resources available to you at Purdue University. They will be of great benefit to you as you navigate potentially unfamiliar territory in classes, experiential opportunities, scholarships and funding, careers, etc.

Name: Amy Stanley

Hometown: Battle Ground, IN

Degrees: BS Organizational Leadership and Supervision, Purdue; MBA, Indiana Wesleyan University

Advice: Growing up it was not expected that any of us (my siblings or cousins maternal or paternal) would attend college, it was never even an option that we discussed. Jumping forward to my children it was an expectation after high school and is already being talked about by my children with my grandchildren. I know that higher education is not suitable for all children but there should be an option which I hope is a lasting legacy to my family.

Name: Ruth Streveler

Hometown: Wausau, WI

Degrees: BA Indiana University; MS The Ohio State University; PhD University of Hawaii at Manoa

Advice: it is important to make sure to find mentors outside one’s family who can give you a broader perspective about what is possible. Find a variety of mentors to guide you.

Name: John Sutherland

Hometown: Hinsdale, IL

Degrees: BS and MS in Industrial Engineering, and PhD in Mechanical Engineering, all from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Advice: Do not underestimate what you can accomplish through hard work and your ability.

Name: Hong Z. Tan

Hometown: Shanghai, China

Degrees: BS in BME, from Shanghai Jiao Tong University; SM and PhD in EECS from MIT

Advice: Make the most of your college experience by finding a faculty mentor who can guide you - we professors love to chat with students!

Name: Kerry Ticen

Hometown: Lafayette, IN

Degree: BS Organizational Leadership and Supervision, Purdue

Advice: Never give up on the challenge of getting a degree. I was out of High School for 7 years when I started my degree, but I got it done in less than 3 years.

Name: David Umulis

Hometown: Lake Ann, MI

Degrees: BSE Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan; PhD Chemical Engineering, University of Minnesota

Advice: I met my first engineer when I was 17 and she told me about the projects she worked on as a Civil Engineer. This really encouraged me to think about doing something besides what I was likely going to keep doing- water softener repair and plumbing. When I was applying to the University of Michigan, my family doctor helped me better understand the questions and went over my application before submitting. These small, seemingly inconsequential acts made a big difference and helped me to get on a different track. I also relied on them at points of crisis in undergrad. Continue to be plugged in to those with less exposure, with less access. Stay focused and lean on your community when in need. Enjoy being a first generation college student and eventual graduate. Be proud of that fact and accomplishment.

Name: Mirian Velay-Lizancos

Hometown: Fisterra, Spain

Degrees: PhD in Civil Engineering, University of A Corua, Spain

Advice: If you work hard and you do not give up, you will achieve your career goal. It is in your hands! Every time that someone told you or suggest that you will not be able to do that… use these words as fuel, and show everyone that that person was completely wrong. I know it is not easy, but believe me, when you get your goal, you will enjoy it even more! Work hard, never give up - and Boiler Up!

Name: Jill Wable

Hometown: West Lebanon, IN

Degree: BS Business Management, University of Phoenix

Advice: As you start on your educational journey, make a conscious effort to be a lifelong learner. Use every opportunity and interaction to learn something new.

Name: Teresa Walker

Hometown: Otterbein, IN

Degrees: BS Digital Media Communications, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College; MS Strategic Communication, Purdue

Advice: 2016 National Teacher of the Year Johana Hayes said, "Your journey is not determined by where you begin. You may have to do things differently, but you absolutely can do everything you ever wanted to do." Though Hayes was quoted well after I pursued my degrees and career in communications, I found that she perfectly defined my courage to take that first small step. (In fact, I put it on my cap as I received my master’s degree in 2016!) I hope it inspires you as well and gives you the reassurance to begin your own amazing journey.


Related Links:   Purdue Will Celebrate First-Generation College Students During Week-Long Event