Humans of UMBC: First-Gen Edition November 2021

Amy M. Froide

Introducing Amy M. Froide! Professor Froide teaches courses in British history and European Women’s History, focusing on the years 1500-1800. Her areas of expertise include social, economic, social, women’s, and gender history. She is the author of Silent Partners: Women as Public Investors during Britain’s Financial Revolution, 1690-1750 (Oxford University Press, 2016). Her other books include Never Married: Single women in Early Modern England (Oxford University Press, 2005) and Single women in the European Past, 1250-1800 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), co-edited with Judith M. Bennett. Professor Froide has served as the book review editor for the Journal of British Studies, President of the Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies, and the founding Director of UMBC’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Minor. She holds affiliate appointments in UMBC’s Gender and Women’s Studies program and the Language, Literacy, and Culture Ph.D. program. She mentors Master’s degree students in both early modern British and European women’s history. Former students have gone on to Ph.D. programs in the U.S. and the U.K. She is the winner of the 2018 Regents’ Award for Teaching Excellence. 

Our Project Assistant, Abid Ur Rahman caught up with Professor Froide for an interview. Here is what she had to say!

Q: Tell me about yourself: what do you do, what are your goals, what school did you attend, what was your major, etc.?

A: “I am from San Diego, California. From a very early age, I was fascinated by the world of history and English. For the dream of becoming a teacher of history, I studied hard in my high school days. And with guidance from some amazing counselors from high school, I secured a full scholarship to the University of San Diego. The most eye-opening and transformative event of my life happened in my university life. I got to go to study abroad at the university of oxford, England. I was able to do that because I found out, I could transfer my financial aid which would allow me to earn the same credits at a similar cost. This life-changing experience substantiated my love for the past. After coming back, my professors from college inspired me to go to grad school. I wanted to be a high school teacher at first but they told me I had the potential to be a professor. With their help, I got admission to Duke University. Being a first-generation college student is hard but being a first-generation grad student is a different ballgame. I enrolled there with very little funding because I didn’t know you could ask for more funding from your department. not being able to cope up I received my first ever “C” grade in the first semester but being a fast learner I regrouped fast and was able to complete my graduation even faster than most of my peers. One lesson I learned from these experiences is that we should never hesitate to ask for help from people who knows more than us.”

Q:What does being first gen mean to you?

A: “First of all, I like how it sounds. It recognizes diversity, creating an environment with larger perspectives. When I was in undergrad or grad school first-gen students used to hide this identity now instead they are claiming it. I recognize first-gen students to be very special, they are always self-motivated, they had to pass many extra obstacles to get here. If some students in my class tell me they are first-gen students, I would go emphasize more to introduce him/her to resources that would help him. Because with first-gen students, with little help they would fly high, exceeding all expectations.”

Q: If you were to go back, what would you do differently? (can be related to being first gen in college or in general)?

A: “I would have called the director of grad school asking for more funding. I would not hesitate to ask for more help. Sometimes students don’t want to ask questions out of fear of sounding naïve, unintelligent but as now I am a professor, if any student advocate himself/herself in a mature way, I find him/her mature.”

Q:Do you think being first gen is a negative term? Explain? How can we improve the narrative?

A: “I don’t see it at all. But I can realize the outsider’s perspective as well. Some might wonder why first-gen students are getting some extra help, but we would have to understand everyone gets extra help in some way or another. It is more difficult for them compared to others. Being first-gen is a badge of honor. We have to let the other students also know about a first gen’s day-to-day struggle. If we can make everyone well aware of the context the narratives will get better.”

Q:What is something you wish you had when you were starting off in school? (resources, mentorship, etc)?

A: “Yes, DEFINITELY. I wish I had a class or a workshop or a group where people like me could go and ask questions or just discuss the issues we had in our minds. This would help us to identify resources available to us and even teach us the simplest of etiquette like how to address the professors. Coming back to my study abroad example, I thought studying abroad is only for rich people but after attending a webinar I found out that I could transfer my scholarship and I don’t have to pay anything extra out of my pocket.  Class workshop group, group questions, knowing how to identify resources, inaccessible, study abroad, rich, knowledge available, basic etiquette, applying for job”

Q:What is something you’d like to see change moving forward in regards to first gens in college? 

A: “We are doing a great job anyway, if we can make the professors and non-first gen students more involved that would be even better. The professors can promote the network in the class and encourage the students to seek help from it. If we can educate the non first gen students about the experience of a first gen student we could instill empathy and they could help in the process as peers are the best teachers. For the identity we could provide a visual representation of their identity like a badge or a hoodie of sorts. And finally, focusing on the intersectionality like first gen international student or first gen female student etc. This sub group of people would have their own problem so we should focus on that.”

Recommendations by Professor Froide

Books: Nonfiction -All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family (Tiya Alicia Miles), Fiction: Little women (Louisa May Alcott). TV shows: The crown

As a historian what part of the era you wish to travel back if you have a time machine?

I would like to meet average women in seventeenth history.