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SCU First Gen Staff/Faculty Profiles

Alice P. Villatoro
Assistant Professor, Public Health Program
Where did you attend college?

University of Southern California

What was your college experience like as a first-generation college student?

Being a first-generation college student felt like I was learning to walk for the first time. I had to learn to be my own advocate and be proactive about seeking resources that would help me succeed in academia. It was not an easy thing to do, but what helped me tremendously was to build a social support network of other first-generation students. It was cathartic to have someone to talk to during my college experience who understood my struggles with feeling "othered". It was an opportunity to motivate each other and remind each other that we were worthy of being there and receiving a higher education. Furthermore, the mentors I established were instrumental in shaping my success in college and heavily influenced my career trajectory. They helped me understand my goals in life and how to translate that into a meaningful career. Without their guidance, I probably would not have thought about graduate school and considered a career in research and academia.

What message do you have to share with current first-generation college students?

Your feelings are valid, and you are not alone. You belong in higher education, and your participation makes the college experience for other students that much richer. Diversity in backgrounds and ways of thinking about the world are important for a well-rounded education because it challenges us to think outside the box and to be inclusive of all populations and perspectives.