Humans of UMBC: First-Gen Edition March 2021

Emma Sellers

An informal portrait of Emma

Our “Human of UMBC” for the month of March is Emma Sellers, Emma Sellers is a program manager at UMBC and also a part time professor at UMBC. She also is also a UMBC alumni and attended UMBC and earned her BA in English in 2003, and her MA. in Instructional Development in 2007.

Q: Tell me about yourself
I work full time in Political Science as a Program Manager, and I teach part time for the Undergraduate Department as well as Academic Success Center. My goal is to continue to work in Political Science to manage the department’s business processes practices and teach part time at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). I attended UMBC and earned my BA in English in 2003, and my MA. in Instructional Development in 2007.

Q: What does being first-gen mean to you?
Being a First-Gen is very important. It means a lot to me because this person is  setting up a new norm for their family. It doesn’t come without any challenges, but with determination and tenacity the First Generation student can succeed and become successful. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to do something different, and hopefully others will follow in their footsteps.

Q: Tell me about a challenging time and how you overcame it? (in regards to being first gen)
I was faced with too many challenges to talk about. But what comes to mind now is, I had gotten to a point where I started to just stop going to school. Being married with teenagers at that time was very stressful, and I just felt like I couldn’t press on. My parents couldn’t help me, my husband just didn’t understand, and my teenagers were, well should I say were in their own world. My siblings couldn’t relate to what my challenges were, and I just felt alone.  But I had created a support network on my job. Many of my colleagues helped me to the finish line. That’s why it’s so important that a student should find a mentor or two to help guide them along the way to success.

Q: Do you think being first-gen is a negative term? Explain.
I think the word First-Gen can be seen as negative because one may think that this population of students test scores are lower due to the fact these students had not been exposed to a higher level of educated influences from other family members. I think this may influence the decisions of some admission officers in universities when students are trying to get accepted. I also think it marks the student in having to prove that they have to prove themselves. I think a better descriptive choice of words would work.

Q: What is something you wish you had when you were starting off in school? (resources, mentorship, etc) 
When I first started College, I went to school part time, and worked full time. It took me 13 years to get my BA. I wish there were mentors that I could turn to in my times of stress. I also wish there were better advisement, because during my earlier years of college, I basically figured out what classes I needed to take without any help or support.

Q: What is something you’d like to see change moving forward in regards to first gens in college?
I would like to see more participation from students/staff during orientation activities. It’s great to have Faculty, but I think sometimes students relates better with other students and staff. I would like to see more programs dedicated to First-Gen students dedicated to success skills and how to stay on track to graduating.