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Episode 2 Transcript

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Neither Here Nor There

Time: 1:05:30


students, assimilation, people, tasha, first generation students, chico state, intersectionality, first generation college, college, michael, talking, campus, working, generation, Teresa, chico, years, hear, imposter syndrome, education


Joshuah Whittinghill, Teresa Hernandez, Tasha Alexander, Michael Brown, Introduction Music



Introduction Music 00:44

Introduction Music


Joshuah Whittinghill 00:46

As we are recording this podcast in Chico, California, and are employed by the University, we acknowledge and are mindful that CSU, Chico stands on lands that were originally occupied by the first people of this area, and we recognize the Mechoopda and their distinctive spiritual relationship with this land and the waters that are run through campus. We are humbled that our campus resides upon sacred lands that wants to sustain the Mechoopda people for centuries.


Joshuah Whittinghill 01:15

All right, Hello, and welcome to the second episode of first generation one of many, what our mission is to create an archive of discussions with and about first generation student experiences in and out of the classroom. We hope to continue raising awareness and understanding provide voice for students and alum as well as presented resources for faculty and staff working with first generation students. I’m Joshuah Whittinghill, and after a long search to find someone to join me in this journey is now on board my amazing partner for this Teresa Hernandez. Hello, Teresa.


Teresa Hernandez 01:52

Hello, Josh, thank you for having me.


Joshuah Whittinghill 01:54

Thanks for being here. I’m just glad we get to do this together. Finally, after months and months of planning, and then being sent home right to work remotely. It’s been a blessing in a sense, though, that this whole zoom has actually turned recording of podcasts into a much easier process. For everyone. Teresa, go ahead and share our poem and quote our lyric for the day.


Teresa Hernandez 02:17

Awesome. Yes. So today, we actually have a lyric for you. So if you’re familiar with Immortal Technique, and one of his songs, pop philosophy of poverty, I’m going to go ahead and read you one of the quotes from that song, talk about change and working within the system to achieve that the problem with always being a conformist is that when you try to change the system from within, it’s not you who changes the system, it’s the system that will eventually change you.


Joshuah Whittinghill 02:43

That seems like a really good quote for today in the sense of we’re going to be talking about assimilation and intersectionality. Today, and living in two cultures. But that’s sort of, that sort of gets at this hidden thing that happens when the when the assimilation is happening for people in general, right? There’s, there’s this sort of loss or change, that sometimes we aren’t even aware of happening until we turn around to actually reflect on where we are in the situation because we might be so focused on, let’s get that goal, let’s achieve whatever we’re trying to achieve. And then all of a sudden, wait, we step back.


Teresa Hernandez 03:16

Excatly. So it’s a great question encompasses a lot of what we’re going to talk about today. And to help us do that. We have two amazing guests today. And it’s my pleasure to introduce our first guest. So we have Michael Brown with us today. Michael is from Sacramento and he’s going into his fourth and final year at Chico State majoring in Psychology with a minor in African American Studies. After graduating with his Bachelor’s, he plans on furthering his education and getting a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. He someday hopes in becoming a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor working at a college campus or hospital. Thanks for being with us today, Michael


Michael Brown 03:53

Thank you guys for having me.


Joshuah Whittinghill 03:55

Yeah, it’s great seeing you again. That’s for sure. One of our one of our really engaged lively students always smiling around campus. It’s good to see him back sort of in person now. Right. Okay, and our next guest, thank you for joining us also is Tasha Alexander. She’s an International Student Advisor and co-chair of the first generation Faculty and Staff Association at CSU Chico. She’s been working in the field of higher education for 19 years, and specializes in working with college students from diverse backgrounds, specifically international and first generation students as the first in her family tree to earn a college degree. She’s passionate about supporting first gen students in achieving their academic dreams. And thank you, Tasha, for being here today with us.


Tasha Alexander 04:45

I’m happy to be here.


Joshuah Whittinghill 04:46

Yeah, yeah. Yes, it’s gonna be great. And I know because Tasha and I think we were hired on the CSU Chico campus, probably within around the same month or two of each other.


Tasha Alexander 04:58

Wow. Wow. Is that right?. Yeah,


Joshuah Whittinghill 05:00

I’m coming up on my 20th year in November will be 20 years as a professional staff and faculty member on campus. So, so we’ve seen a lot together talked a lot together, and it’s gonna be a wonderful discussion. So, so going into our, our episodes, we have certain topics, like we said today assimilation and intersectionality. And we thought it’d be really good to start our episodes off to least kind of have somewhat of a shared sense of the, of the definition of the words kind of, you know, in with these words, there are many, many ways that people interpret words, right, and then processes and theories. But we, we want to go with some that kind of give it sort of the more of the broad understanding of what these words are just for listeners, if it’s a familiar that a term they’re not familiar with, or, or even are familiar just to make sure we kind of have that shared space we’re coming from so assimilation, and many, many different ways, right to see. So a couple that I have found a share, you know, it’s the process of which, you know, formally distinct and separate groups kind of come to share a common culture or emerged social setting. And as society undergoes this assimilation, as we mentioned, from the quote, differences among groups can sort of start to fade away and be decreased. And, and that happens with that assimilation in that process, unfortunately, and then, there are many different ways that people define, like I said, one of them also that psychologists more in the field look at, as it’s one of two ways that people absorb new knowledge by assimilating into something, right. And it’s most often frequently we see it with children, and immigrants, and students at sort of all different stages of life, to have to evaluate and as they absorb this information, and sometimes it’s very much by choice, people want to try and join something new or become part of something new, like a being a college student, right? That’s a choice people really want to, and maybe not, maybe some people argue it’s not a choice that it feels like if we don’t go to college, what are some of the options then if we aren’t a college student, so it may not even be a choice in that sense. But then once they are a student, then taking on those new things, learning those new things. But then, unfortunately, right, like we mentioned earlier, at the same time, that means there’s some sort of distancing from a certain culture because you can’t always maintain every aspect of every part of who you are, while you’re learning new things that takes up space for old things sometimes. And then looking at assimilation I was in I was fascinated in one sense of coming across how many different types of simulation sort of that come along with it, you know, just a acculturation or cultural assimilation. Right, this idea of a focus just around culture, structural assimilation, right, just looking at groups in general, entire groups of entering into different groups on marital assimilation, I mean, so it goes on different different aspects of how simulation plays out and it can be a role that people are experiencing in their, in their lives. And then what comes sort of at the core in the history of the United States for centuries, is this idea of this melting pot. Right? We’ve seen this for years and and Tasha and I might be old enough where the idea of the the mix salad metaphor didn’t even exist yet. For us as kids, it was just a melting pot. That was what was driven home of like, Hey, we’re all going to come together, and there’s not going to be any differences, we’re all going to be one sort of same thing. And so then in that sense, at the underneath line of it was really embraced 100 years ago, right by President Roosevelt at the time of really pushing out like there’s this one country, there’s one language, there’s one, you know, system people we have to stand for as Americans. So this idea of Americanization, right, or another term in sociology often is the Anglo conformity, right? Anglo centrism lattices, that’s what’s going to be. And, unfortunately, that flowed into education, that became a central part of education over the years, and this idea of education is going to make and help modernize and bring together this competency based social system, which means we’re going to do away with everybody in general, and make sure we’re kind of all this one big same thing, which then we know, doesn’t necessarily play out as a really beneficial situation for a lot of people in general, right. And it dismisses a lot of folks and changes the experiences for that. So that’s enough on assimilation for right now. And we’ll, we’ll come back and forth to it. So if Teresa want to go ahead and take away the next term for us.


Teresa Hernandez 09:50

Yeah, so we’re also gonna be talking about intersectionality. And so what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna give like a brief background on it and just to kind of familiarize ourselves with with the term, who coined it and how that just came about, and there’s so much more that I’m not going to touch upon. So but we’re going to provide resources if you’re interested and wanting to know a little bit more about who coined it and how it was going, there’s definitely going to be information on that. So intersectionality really gained its attention when Professor Kimberle Crenshaw, so she is a professor at Columbia University, as well as UCLA. And she spent 30 years of her time researching race and civil rights, and just everything above and below that. And her specifically what she wanted to do is she was really interested in how different identities came together. And it affected certain situations specifically with regarding law, and the oppressive systems within our justice system and within the law itself. So that’s really what got her looking into it and kind of coming up with a term that she actually coined called intersectionality. So she was, um, she was looking at these different layers of identities and kind of struggling with, Okay, well, let’s see what’s at the root of this. And looking at different cases from specifically when I got her attention was an African American woman, and why her case went the way it did. And coming to the conclusion that a lot of is based on the different identities that she carried once. Her gender identity as a woman into her racial identity as an African American, and how those two are just layering one on top of another amongst a bunch of other ones as well. So um that’s kind of how she came, coined the term of intersectionality. And it didn’t really become, quote, unquote, mainstream until 2015. And it was added in the dictionary in 2015, as well in the Oxford dictionary. So that’s really kind of one um more people started using the term intersectionality. There’s more research done on that term. And there’s just a lot more light being brought to what intersectionality is, and how it affects individuals, people of color from other oppressed, marginalization communities. And so what the now that the definition has in the dictionary, it states the interconnected nature of social categorization, such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. So that really, I think, does a great job of summing up what it is, but it has a huge, long history behind it, which I think is really interesting. And I’m really excited to see how we talk about intersectionality today and how it relates to us and our guests and our students.




Joshuah Whittinghill 12:37

All right, thank you. That I mean, that definitely sort of rings true with a lot of experiences, we know working with first generation students, by in discussions, and I think it’s important that last little bit there really, really drives home sort of the the focus and the, the urgency and the idea of when it when Kimberle Crenshaw was developing this, because now we hear people talk about intersectionality. And yes, we all have different experiences, or identities that are influencing who we are. But they’re not all influenced or touched on by social justice, or discrimination or negative outcomes. So that’s an important factor to keep in mind. Because I know I do hear a lot people talking about just Oh, it’s my intersectionality. But then I talk with them about it a little bit more. And they come to even see like, oh, none of those have any negative outcomes. That’s just more of a makeup of who I am as a person, which is important for us as people into as individuals, but to also understand where the message is coming from. So So Tasha or Michael Yeah, we’d love to, you know, now be able to now really get this discussion rolling with everything. So and we did talk a little bit beforehand, but what has your experience been with assimilation? Or sometimes there’s this other phrase that comes along with it, right, sense of belonging, as a college student. What does that been like? For you? What are what are your thoughts on that?


Michael Brown 14:02

I can, I can take this on first, I guess my take on assimilation would be it’s kind of hard to find a sense of belonging, sometimes it’s kind of up and down. It’s important to find like clubs and organizations that sort of represent your cultural background, like for example, Multicultural Greek Organizations or stuff, things like that. But assimilation can be can be definitely a struggle, especially in classrooms, in clubs that are just for the general population, like for example, in the leadership realm, you know, you’re struggling with, okay, I want to assimilate to these other people’s cultures. I want to you know, see who they are, but at the same time, how do I do that while at the same time maintaining who I am. So it’s kind of a sometimes can be up and down struggle, but it’s definitely important to join organizations in my opinion, having EOP which I’m a part of and other first gen organizations. I’m apart of to be around people that kind of supports who you are and understand where you came from and understand your identity. That means a lot, because for people that don’t sort of get that support, it can, it can really weigh on you, you know. And I think that’s a big factor in people that first gens that drop out, they don’t necessarily find that sense of family in support. So


Joshuah Whittinghill 15:26

And Michael mentioned EOP. So just to be clear, that’s the Educational Opportunity Program, right, a program throughout the CSU system and other systems as well. Michael, you mentioned, you know, sort of joining groups, you work, you work with the EOP office, but what’s another group that you were able to join that really helps you connect with first gen or another part of who you are another identity you have, that you said was important to really do that?


Michael Brown 15:54

Well, this CCLC is sort of, it’s a social space, but that’s a place where I go and interact with people that are most likely going to be first gen, people of color, whether it’s African American, Hispanic, you know, Latinx, like two different cultures like that also identify as Christian. So I’m in a Christian organization on campus. So intersectionality, you know, it’s a plethora of identities is also first gen and proud, which is obviously, a first generation college student organization. So these are some of the things that I’ve checked out. So yeah, but there’s there’s Chico does a decent job at supplying clubs and organizations for a plethora of identities, you know, whether LGBTQ, religion, you know, class, all the different identities you could think of, there’s something for it all, you just got to kind of go out there and check it out, you know, so those that struggle with stepping outside of their comfort zone and actually go into these clubs, that’s where you probably run into problems of finding that sense of belonging, you know.


Joshuah Whittinghill 16:53

And, again, Michael mentioned of one of our resources at Chico State is the Cross Cultural Leadership Center, the CCLC. Alright, Tasha, for you, I know, as a student, you had certain experiences, and then now as faculty and staff, you have different experiences you want to share about either one of those or a little of both?


Tasha Alexander 17:12

Sure, yes, yeah. I mean, I, I’m glad you gave us the questions ahead of time. So I could, you know, think about them a bit, you know, because college was a long time ago, for me, but working at a University, you know, it does keep your experience present, because you’re connecting with students on shared mutual experiences, especially for me, you know, working with first generation college students, which I did for seven years, professionally, really kept alive for me what my experience was like going going away to college, showing up at Chico State as a first generation college student. Um, my parents didn’t have a lot of money, I had a lot less money than pretty much every student, at least it appeared to me, every other student in the dorm that I was, you know, that I became friends with, and they were off going on T trips on the weekends, and I was out looking for a job. So you know, they were joining Greek organizations, and I couldn’t afford to do that. So I do, I remember very distinctly, feeling different, and like an imposter. Not really sure how I managed to get in not trusting that I had, what it took. But because I identify as a white cisgender. Woman, I had a lot of privilege in my pocket, that I didn’t understand at that time, what that meant. But looking back, I see that I could fake it really easily. I could blend in. I could spend, you know, I could use a credit card and buy, you know, the right clothes and show up somewhere. And no one would ever guess that, that I had these feelings of not belonging, and that I felt so different. So, for me, I think the experience was really interesting. And I and I, and I think about how I didn’t actually know that first generation support programs were open to people who identified as white. So I didn’t bother applying for any of those, you know, I just kind of figured it out on my own. And and for me, you know, I did go to a really good High School in a in an area where the tax base was nice and strong in Santa Cruz, California. So I actually did have the academic background that I needed in order to do well, but I just didn’t understand or know any of that.


Tasha Alexander 19:46

So, I worked full time and that’s where I found my people. You know, I worked on campus, I worked off campus and I and I really connected with other students who were in similar situations as myself and that opened up a lot doors because those students were having experiences. And were involved in some of the types of things that Michael talks about. And one of the biggest things for me was a student who I was working with who was on financial aid like I was, and studied abroad. And when I heard she was studying abroad, I was majoring in Spanish and really, really wanted to become fluent in Spanish. When I found out that she was studying abroad, I said, Gosh, I wish I could do something like that. There’s no way I could ever afford it. And she looked at me, she said, I’m on full financial aid, you know, you can take your financial aid, and you can go, you can do this. And that changed the trajectory of my life was that one student who I was working with. So that’s where I found my sense of belonging was with other students who are working hard to get through college.


Joshuah Whittinghill 20:45

That’s great information to share with me so many people are experiencing that, right that are first generation students. We know, here at Chico State, we have a little bit over 60% of students last fall, were first generation students, and Tasha and I have talked about this for about five or six or seven years, at least, looking at the numbers and watching them go from you know, here, we’re at 35%, we’re at 40%. Now we’re at 55%. All of a sudden, we both looked at each other one day without, is this number is this even possibly, right? Because just a couple years back, we weren’t even near this. And now the numbers have almost doubled, you know, in that amount of time, that then if you look at the system, and Michael mentioned it that for students who aren’t able to find that support, or become part of that support, we have roughly only about 1100 first generation students who are in the EOP, you know, receive services from EOP, then there’s two other programs on campus that kind of focus to help first generation students formerly that have funding in our setup program. But their numbers are only around 150, or 160 per program. And Tasha used to be one of our directors for the Trio Student Support Services Program, that number is 160. That’s not reaching a whole lot of the students. And so then if we look at our total enrollment roughly around 17,000 at the time of last fall, that we still end up roughly having close to, you know, seven to 8,000 first generation students who don’t get to be part of a formal support program. And I know Michael and I have talked in the past about some of his friends who came with him from high school, and after the first year, had stopped out and move back home. And what have we talked about it some of those some of those friends you had, would you would you say from what we talked about and what you saw with them, they weren’t able to reach out or didn’t have the means to reach out or chose not to? Was that one of the aspects for them?


Michael Brown 22:45

I think that’s one, but I think also did since the, like, African American population is so small on Chico, and you think about intersectionality and these sorts of things, it’s hard to find people that are all for you, you know, I’m saying because the black community, there’s a lot of different types of people within the black community, you know, sense of, um, it’s kind of hard to find solid friends. I got lucky to find people that I click with, but not everybody that fortunate, you know. So, yeah, I don’t know. I think that’s that’s one aspect of it. And because yeah, that support goes a long way with keeping you thriving in school, keeping you happy on campus, you know, it’s a lot of different things that go with with that. So I think that was the biggest thing for sure.


Teresa Hernandez 23:34

Also, I think a lot of it to start off like not just in college, or that trend, transition period of the summer, right before your your first year at college because as, as a first generation student myself, I didn’t know what it. I never identified myself as a first gen student because no one ever told me, hey, you’re a first gen student, like this is out here for you. Or like, this is what first gen means maybe you should look into this if it applies to you. Like I never remember hearing that in high school. And I’m not and I love my high school. I had personally a pretty great experience there. But what I do, and they were amazing and helping me apply to colleges and encouraged me to do UCs and C’s using community colleges, and really kind of just gave me that knowledge and the support for that. But I think one key thing that was missing were the resources and potential resources available for me because when I started, it wasn’t until probably like my, until I went to I went to San Francisco State University. And it wasn’t like my second year there when I started meeting more people because my first year was so hard there. I had a really hard time transitioning and meeting friends because I was the only one who I knew of that for my high school that went there. And so my second year when I actually put myself out there and started meeting others, they would tell me, Oh yeah, I’m a part of the EOP or I’m a part of this other program. And I’m like, what does that mean? Like, how did you get a part of that? Because they were like, yeah, it’s great to have my own advisor, I go and I meet with like, so and so and I have my own peer mentor, and I’m like, that’s awesome. I could have used that. And they would tell me, oh, well, you know, I am a first gen student, and then they would give me their definition of what that means. And I was like, oh, I’m a first gen student, like I could have been using or utilizing all the resources available to me, but I didn’t. And so that was, I can just imagine for those thousands of students at Chico State who don’t know these resources, and there’s high potential, they still don’t know what’s out there for them, and how much they’re struggling just to even make it from day to day in school. And finding someone to talk to and knowing what it means to do this. And that and meeting deadlines for school and keeping all of that straight. And that’s just a slithr of the entire sphere of their life.


Tasha Alexander 25:49

Just one quick thing to add on to that in just a moment, just to say that, you know, that that sense of the imposter syndrome, moves along with you in life, right? I mean, I am now a first generation college professional, I am the first person in my family to have a job that requires a college degree. So, you know, I deal with feeling with feelings of the imposter syndrome, even in my professional life, which is what’s so wonderful about we have over 100 and 31st generation, faculty and staff on campus. And when we have our meetings and we get together in one room, you can almost see our shoulders drop, you know, just with the relaxation of being around other people who get it, you know, it’s pretty powerful.


Joshuah Whittinghill 26:31

That’s great to hear, I haven’t been able to attend in those meetings. And in the positionality of it, for me in this sense is, I am not a first generation college student. However, I grew up with this with the economic benefits of not being frustration, but I can’t remember any conversation while I was going through high school, even though I was doing well and I was a good student, the discussion of me going to college never came up. My parents are more of the the the notion of Hey, explore life and just learn about it and go out in the world and see what happens. And that was a great way to be educated in one sense. But at the same time, it took me a lot longer than to come around to see the benefit of education or wanting to be, you know, in that and I was just more of a college student for the social aspect in the beginning of it and didn’t realize all of the things that I could have been benefiting from and the benefits of it. And so so as a student, I ended up on academic probation for four years straight. That’s how bad I was that even the community colleges, the community college I was at was saying, you know what, you may not be able to return to a community college, I mean, that you’d be pretty bad. To the point.


Tasha Alexander 27:38

Yeah, but that’s resilience. You keep coming back. Those are my favorite students to work with, honestly.


Joshuah Whittinghill 27:43

Right, right. And so it’s just that that journey in general, right. And so the idea of this imposter syndrome is like, as Tasha is, is looking into her futuristic ball for us, because we have an episode coming up. One of our next episodes, we have guests coming on to talk about imposter syndrome and stereotype threat as in that sense, but it is very real. For students in general, one story I’ll never forget working with a student, because I also get to be the advisor for the golden key international honor society. And that means students that qualify are in the top 15%. In some semesters, that goes up to where they have to have a 3.7 GPA almost. And a student came in who was in EOP, she came in to see me. And she was physically and visually upset, nervous, I mean, anxious, I could see her body was so anxious and just freaking out about what was happening to her. And she said, I don’t know what I’m going to do, how am I going to get a job? I’ve got an A minus in one of my major classes, and I don’t know how that’s gonna affect me. I mean, that and that was true. And I just had to take a deep breath. And I said, you know, can I ask you a question in general, you know, just relaxing how you’re feeling about this, I see that it’s really stressful. But we have about the time we had about 16,000 students at Chico State that semester, it was a year, a few years back. And I said, where do you think you happen to fall on the scope of students from the from the highest GPA to a 0.0? And she said, I don’t know, probably somewhere in the middle. That’s around 8,000 right for her. And I had just been looking at the list, sending it in looking at invitations, getting things ready to go. And I said, Did you realize you’re number 12 in the entire campus, the 12 highest GPA on our campus. And so that’s how powerful that imposter syndrome can be. She received her first A minus every other grades she had was an A across the board. And that’s how, how disconnected as a first generation student she was to how the system even worked. She knew she shared with me all she knew was go to class, do my work, ask questions and get stuff done and do really good, but she hadn’t had the time or the resources are even being part of a support program never got the information to let her see the realm of the picture of what education was doing, what it meant and how we would proceed forward, you know, onto graduate school onto a career. And when she left, she at least said she felt a little bit more confident in what she was because she knew she could look around the class and I was like, wow, I am doing as well as most everybody in this classroom. Pretty much every classroom she was in, she was probably doing better than anybody in the classroom at all period. No, but that’s just the power of what that looks like for first generation students. Um, so if you if you’re just tuning in to the to the episode, and you missed our first episode, maybe just a little recap real fast of what first generation really means because some people there are these discussions right about what first generation college student really is. And so there are a number of different definitions that campuses have used that the federal government uses that state, you know, officials use, but often it’s just the person who’s the first one and their family to attend college. That’s a pretty good, you know, broad look at it. But some schools will will change it up and say, Okay, if your family even went to community college, or they went to college, but no one ever graduated, you can still qualify as first generation college students. So that expands the number a little because some people want it to be just if you’re the first person, right, because then that changes the number of students who are receiving services and funding going different people in those areas. But Trio like the one we mentioned, for the federal program of Trio and Student Support Service, Student Support Services. Tasha, if you want to share with that definition, what they look at.


Tasha Alexander 31:39

Yeah, so that the federal definition by the US Department of Education is that neither parent has adoptive or natural has a four year degree.


Joshuah Whittinghill 31:52

But it also extends to guardians to, right? Parents and guardians. Right?


Tasha Alexander 31:59

Well, well, not so much guardains. I mean, adopt an adoptive parent.


Joshuah Whittinghill 32:02

Okay. Perfect. Yeah. Just want to make sure that’s clear, right? That it is it doesn’t have to be your biological parents per se, it could be the guardian you have who have who have legal custody of you as a as a when you’re growing up as a minor. And then and then also in the last number of years. In addition, I know EOP we have used it in reviewing admission files, and Teresa is one of our new admission specialists in the program at Chico State. She’s been in that role now, what, seven months?


Teresa Hernandez 32:30

Yeah. Since November.


Joshuah Whittinghill 32:31

Okay, so I’m off by a couple. So more like, eight or nine months. But yes, I think my being home feels like I don’t know how long you’ve been here, because I haven’t seen you in person for so long. But in the last number of years, even more more institutions are actually also agreeing to even if your parent has a four year degree from a different country, you can still qualify as first generation here. So we are seeing now I wouldn’t say more and more of those. But we do see some every year. I know I see a few every year when I’m reviewing files. So that just kind of gives you a little more if you’re if you’re new listener or new to first generation or just wanting to better clear understanding of the definition of what we’re kind of talking about when we look at first generation college students. Because I mentioned to someone recently about I’m gonna start this podcast I’m working on for a while trying to get it going. It’s going to be on first generation college students. And they asked, oh, first generation to the country, or first generation to college. And so there is the you know, vast emphasis because we talked about assimilation, the beginning of this, and we’re, you know, kind of rolling with that and, and, and really we know, families who immigrate, often have to then face assimilation in very different ways. Quite possibly, then a student who family has already been in the United States for three or four generations, or five or six even. But there’s still assimilation happening, like Michael mentioned, based on his identities. The experience of being African American, and being a male and being Christian, and finding those things that happen but for immigrant families, very different. We work here in the north state with a lot of Hmong families. We have a lot of Hmong students who come to Chico State and live in the smaller towns of canoes around Chico and Chico. And we hear many stories right about assimilation for them where they immigrated with three generations all at once grandparents, parents, and the student all immigrated when the student might have been three, four or five or six years old, even. But, and it’s interesting to hear from them and see the stories of how each generation has chosen different ways to go about assimilating or not assimilating. Right many times and Tasha or Teresa is sharing stories with students you’ve seen and worked with, were quite often I know students are busy because they have to help grandparents because the grandparents haven’t learned English and don’t have the the means or the time or they’re, you know, they’re really set like you know, I’m going to make sure that Hmong culture persists within my family. I want to make sure we don’t lose that because the Hmong language is slowly fading away for for a lot of families where then the the middle generation of the parents of the students we have now those parents are learning English are working but also keeping some Hmong traditions going with their families. And then the students, some of them share like oh, yeah, I I don’t really speak Hmong. Now, I didn’t really learn Hmong, I’m just I’m, I’m an American, I’m, I don’t follow a lot of those things that my family does. So it’s very interesting, and especially Tasha working with international students, any anything in there you find interesting that you might want to share or just kind of seeing the different and that because international student obviously isn’t necessarily in the technical term, right of an immigrant, but they’re living in the United States in the same sort of capacity.


Tasha Alexander 35:55

Yeah, actually, what I was thinking about, while you were speaking, a pair of really close parallel, is a similar indigenous Americans, I was working on an Indian reservations, up in the Pacific Northwest for a while. And that experience is very similar as well, in terms of this. This loss of language and culture that’s happening, and a need to help educate the younger, you know, generations to really value their land so that they can go out and fight for it when necessary, and to, you know, enforce, you know, to make sure that treaties are enforced and those kinds of things. So I was thinking, you know, that’s a really interesting parallel, you know, these are our Native Americans, right, indigenous Americans that are having a similar experience to some of the immigrants that come in his first generation Americans to the United States. As far as our international students go, yeah, culture shock and assimilation and trying to decide how to find their place is there there are a lot of parallels. But there’s this sense that they’re, they’re here for four to six years, right, and then they’re going to go back home. And going home is always the hardest part. And I think that that’s also a parallel for first generation college students. When we go home, we have, we have changed our outlook on life, our thoughts, our ideas, a lot of the time, the way, the way that we think, the way that we vote, all kinds of things change when after you go away to college. And, and so the same thing happens for international students going home can be very difficult, where they can’t necessarily really identify and connect with their families and their friends in the way that they once did before going away.


Teresa Hernandez 37:41

I really like that you brought that up Tasha, because I wanted to ask you all your experiences, and being first gen college students, how has that kind of changed? Maybe your conversations or certain ideas that you may have that you shared? Or maybe don’t share any more with your family? Or kind of how has that how has just being a college student in general, change those relationships for both you, Tasha and Michael,


Tasha Alexander 38:03

Do you want to take it first, Michael, or do you want me to go first?


Michael Brown 38:08

Sure. I can. Yeah, I try to take it, I think it definitely, college kind of makes you you understand who you are in what principles you kind of are starting to stand behind. So coming back home, and then seeing like, family like uncles, aunts, grandparents, that you now kind of see a little differently because you’re seeing that they don’t exactly align with what you values. And that can kind of be a dilemma, because you’re really starting to understand who you are and what you value as a person. So that’s kind of something that I’ve noticed coming back after I’ve assimilated into this college role. But I think that that’s a good thing. You know, so, yeah, that’s, that’s been my experience. So it’s been


Tasha Alexander 38:54

I love how I love that positive. That’s a good thing. I sometimes forget that, you know, I actually have this new Zen quote that’s on my computer that I found recently. The obstacle is the path, right? And to you know, that there is so much richness in in things being challenging and hard and that’s how we grow you know, I, I struggled when I went back home after college, I actually went back and lived with my, my parents for a while because I had gotten myself into very deep debt while I was in college. And there was a lot of conflict. It was really hard, and my family are really good people. And they kind of see me as a an alien. They’re not really sure where I came from, who I am anymore. They were super excited when I went away to college because I was going to you know, light the Sky on Fire as the first family to get a degree and and I was going to get a really high paying job that was, you know, and be set for life. Right. And I chose not to do that. Right. I work in education. And that was really, really disappointing for my family. At first, they’ve grown to appreciate a lot about about my life and the choices that I’ve made. But the fact that I would you learn when you’re when you’re going to college, that, that it’s not just a commodity, right, that degree might seem like a commodity, like, it’s this thing that you’re going to get, that’s going to open up doors for you, which does, but it also opens up your mind to the possibilities and it and it gets you thinking that maybe a job is is more than just putting food on the table, maybe I can actually, because I earned this degree, I have an opportunity to do something that I love and that I feel passionate about. And I know talking to a lot of my first gen graduates, alumni, there’s a lot of conflict around that with a lot of families who really had dreams of them being a lawyer or a doctor or, or doing something that had a high income. And sometimes students are choosing something that maybe makes the same as what their parents did. Or even less, like, you know, she’d become maybe a social worker. So anyway, yeah, there was conflict, and there still is, you know, our relationships are, you know, are what they are, but but it is good, you’re right, Michael, it is good, because it’s growing. And, and it’s identity, our identity.


Joshuah Whittinghill 41:17

That makes me think of two different things. As you’re as you’re both we’re sharing that. And, and one of those is this idea of success or achievement, right and sort of this outside view for for us as individuals, and especially for first generation students the pressure of what that word brings, when they come to school, because even at the program we have for Summer Bridge we work with, you know, the first year students coming in right out of high school, and many of them are already walking around with tons of weight of pressure. And they don’t even know what college is, they haven’t even seen college. They’ve seen the campus, but they haven’t even been in a classroom yet. And they’re already feeling pressure from parents, uncles, grandparents, brothers, I mean, sisters, just so many people in their family are already saying, hey, you’re going to go achieve and you’re going to represent our family, you’re going to make us all so proud. And this student is internally freaking out, to put it mildly, like, how can I, what am I going to do and so so we do see with some of the basic needs studies that are happening out just the level of anxiety and stress that first grade students are carrying with them all through college, because sometimes they don’t have anyone to talk to, sometimes they only have one person to talk to. And that’s not necessarily going to help them necessarily change or be able to work through that. So that so so for me, I know a lot of work I do is with social and emotional development, with students and talking about that, and really getting them to kind of help themselves understand and develop their own definition of achievement. And what does that look like. And then the other part of everything I remembered was I was talking to a colleague who works at a very prominent, very high scale private school on the east coast. I said I wouldn’t say which school it was. But it is very pricey. And, and the idea of achievement in general for that person. And they said I could share was that family members said, Oh, you’ve achieved all this stuff. And the person is thinking, I want to leave this place, I want to go back and work at a different school, I want to be in a different setting. And people people question, why would you ever want to leave look at the achievement you’ve had, and the person is thinking, but I’m not necessarily in a place I want to be from my work. Because like Tasha, I mentioned, you have this degree. Now this is more than just bringing money home. This is how am I influencing how am I being part of the community? How am I contributing to education to society to other other areas, you know, in, in my community in general. And if I’m not in a place I want to be, then my idea of achievement very different in that sense, right? Because I think we also hear I know a lot of students share different stories. I also mentioned I work with honors students, but I also have a program I’ve been working with for maybe 15 years or so roughly, of students who are on academic probation. And like I mentioned, that’s someone that’s, that’s a experience I can connect with very much. And a lot of students share when I have them when they’re writing their journals. And they know I’m going to read the journal but they still write stuff in it. And it’s a way I think they really want to make sure someone else hears what they’re feeling. Because I tell them I’m gonna read your journal. And Michael’s been part of this. Now, Tasha you’ve seen part of fresh start are part of the program fresh start for students and, and they know, hey, Josh is gonna read what we’re putting in here, but they still open up because I think that for a lot of them, it’s one of their first times to feel like okay, this person really does want to help me, they want to support me, and he shared some his experience. And so I know he’s been where I’ve been, at least as far as academics go. And so in essence, some of the students will write and share things like, I was told by my family, go get a degree and never come back home, stay away from here, as long as you can, don’t ever come back, there’s nothing here for you. But that person turns like, you know what, but that’s where I want to go help and do work. So they’re they’re battling this message that comes and other people get the opposite message, go off, get your degree, make change, come back here and make change, just be somewhere and make change, like, just like Michael said, positive go out and do good in the world, right. So living those very different things. But now Michael, Tasha and Teresa all working as first generation students in education. One of the things I’m interested in and always seeing, and I get colleagues to talk, we get discussions about this idea of, can you really speak your mind all the time, once you’re in the system as a professional or working in education, because you might get different messages of not sort of pushing against the system is that you know, does that make sense, in a way of just, you know, don’t rock the boat too much, you’re just here to make sure the mission of our office or the mission of our campus, or the mission of this program, or whatever it might be. So I’d love to hear any thoughts you might want to, or be able to share on that. Knowing that people are gonna listen to podcast someday, hopefully,


Teresa Hernandez 46:26

I think I’m just or myself, like, my perspective is very much influenced by how I guess like, how young I am within my professional experience on because I’ve essentially have only held like a professional position, and for about three years, and combination of, you know, to to diferencias. us. And so, I’m not sure in how I’m still navigating that and like navigating that path for myself, but I fit in this may or may not change in the future. But right now, I feel like what I what I value and what is very important for myself, I make sure and I don’t sway away from that, regardless of the atmosphere and environment I’m in. But I always navigate and carry that with respect. So I imagine so for, like, if I’m in a place or a meeting or situation with others and their morals in the line with mine, or maybe they’re seeing something that I personally am taking offense to, I always feel comfortable enough within myself to stay what it is that I feel like the truth is and what I think is the right thing is, but one thing I always keep in the back of my mind is always make sure I navigate that with respect. Because it’s the moment I feel like you show any emotion of anger or anything like that, that’s when you’re kind of you basically just lose validity. And I and I feel like that’s not something. And if I really want to push for things to go away that I believe in, I would need to do that without losing my validity as a professional. And I feel like that’s hard, because that’s a constant clash of your emotions and morals and your your job in your personal life. And I feel and that’s a difficult thing to navigate. And I feel like everyone goes through that. But it’s something that I hope to gain more skills in the future. But I don’t, I hope I don’t change because I really value that within myself. And that’s what my personal definition of success in few minutes for myself, which I think is important to define for yourself. And unfortunately, there’s no blueprint on how to do that. And everyone’s situation is different. And they come to that definition very differently. But I think that’s something that’s really helped me push through as a first gen professional as a first gen student. And even in this atmosphere of coming back to my family, as a first gen college student in navigating those relationships is kind of just feeling 100% comfortable with where I’m at and what I’m doing. And that kind of just allows me to just coast through anything that happens. And keep pushing through and keep doing what I think is right.


Tasha Alexander 49:11

I love that I love it that you mentioned. Well, first of all, I just really love that, at this point in your career, this earlier point in your career that you’re already speaking up, and that you’re finding your voice in that way. Because I think as a woman, you know, when you’re talking about you know that you’re going to be ineffective if you appear angry. And I know that that is that a lot of people of color also express that same concern, right? It takes it takes courage to take a pause and speak up and to find your voice when you’re triggered. So I just want to say, wow, just imagine all of the good that you’re going to do if you’re already starting off strong like that. That’s really great.


Teresa Hernandez 49:59

Thank you, I apprciate that.


Tasha Alexander 50:00

We need your voice. So I’m really glad you’re speaking up.


Joshuah Whittinghill 50:02

That most definitely, I mean, I remember being hired at a similar age and I’m was probably no, were near in comparison to Teresa’s mindset and approach to those things. So it is great to to have her as part of my journey in life now. And, Michael, did you want to share anything on that point? As far as just how, how you maintain your voice, or make sure you have that and keep that going? Because you do have a very good voice and a way of approaching people from what I hear. And when I watch you and see you. I mean, some of it comes naturally with just your amazing personality, though.


Michael Brown 50:49

Yeah, I mean, I always I agree with everything Teresa was saying, you know, and come into contact with always try to see the common humanity and anybody, you know, any situation. So anytime I come into a situation where somebody has an opposing value or principle, and I can see that, you know, I never tried to get, I always try to tame my motion, you know, and just come at them, like in a, let’s see eye to eye and talk about this, I mainly get that, like I was saying before, when I come home, after the college lifestyle and talking to family members, you know, things like that, in the workplace, I just work with the students who, you know, always just try to understand where they’re coming from and their culture, because, you know, we all have different intersecting identities, but coming home, you know, in talking to family members that are not aligning politically, especially during these times, and stuff like that, it can be hard to tame those emotions sometimes. But it’s important to in order to make progress, you know, and to try to change people’s, you know, ways, potentially, or just to come to a common ground that we don’t agree, you know, I’m saying, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be hostile, but I always try to stand behind what I like Teresa, you know, I really value standing behind what I value and what I believe so. Yeah, that’s what I try to stand behind.


Joshuah Whittinghill 52:07

Tasha, isn’t it amazing, just to be surrounded by so many young, inspiring people, whether student or faculty or staff, I mean, it’s just so great, you know, to see that and have that around.


Tasha Alexander 52:20

I love the generations that are coming up into the professional world, I really think I just have, in spite of all that’s going on, I just have so much hope that we’re moving in the right direction and that real social change is on the horizon. And it’s going to be this, this rising generation, it’s really exciting.


Joshuah Whittinghill 52:37

And it’ll be great. Hopefully, hopefully, I’m around to see it, you know, for years, and I won’t be working. By the time they get to the point where we’re at in time, I’ll be I’ll be retired, hopefully, at that point. Because if that’s, you know, I don’t think I need to work that many more years. Two more, two more decades might be a lot, right. But for for the young students and professional step, two more decades for them, and they’re still in their 40s.


Tasha Alexander 53:01

Yeah, they still have so much more to do.


Joshuah Whittinghill 53:05

Yeah. So it’s great, it’s great to be learning from them, and seeing what’s happening. So,


Teresa Hernandez 53:13

Um, and with, with everything we’ve talked about, I know we handled to two turns, but both encompassing very heavy topics and stories and life experiences that come with it. Um, and when I can just say back in sometimes think about my experiences and where I’ve been from where I started, where I am now, and even my students stories and what they come and tell me with and sometimes it weighs on you pretty heavily, and you just want to be able to do so much. I think on the flip side of that, it’s also really important to stay in the know of what’s going on, so you can best relate to your students. And also taking care of yourself is a huge thing. And we hear that a lot, it’s thankfully become a very well known aspects of self care. And I’m so happy a bunch of people have recognized that and are taking that seriously now. And so I feel like it’s important to share out any recommendations or any resources to those to our listeners. Something that I personally do is I really focus a lot on music. And Music is my outlet. And as I notice for many of just to kind of lose myself, I lose myself in the lyrics and the songs and just kind of allows me to mentally take my take myself to a different place. Um, and I want to know if Josh, Tasha, and Michael, what recommendations or resources that you would suggest or give to our listeners. We can start with Michael, if you don’t mind.


Michael Brown 54:36

Sure. Recently, this year I took up on meditation, which before I thought of is some taboo thing I’m like that isn’t really a thing that can actually help but it really has had a big impact on my life. So I recommend the calm app. It’s a good intro if you know they have guided meditations and stuff like that. If you’re into reading the Power of Now is a good book. That is a very by Eckhart Tolle is a very like meditative book that kind of centers you through all the chaos going on in the world to kind of just appreciate the present moment. And he really breaks it down in a lot of different ways. So, so yeah, those are my two to-go twos.


Teresa Hernandez 55:16

Awesome. Thank you, Michael. Tasha? What would you recommend to our listeners?


Tasha Alexander 55:19

Oh, my goodness, um, a couple of things. Currently, the book that I’m reading is called Mindfulness of Race by Ruth King. And I joined two anti-racist, white mindfulness groups. Actually, one is mixed race and one is a is a group of white women. Um, that are focusing on um on finding our voice in the anti-racist movement and using mindfulness as a path. So there’s meditation and guided meditations that go along with that. And they’re there via zoom. And it’s been very powerful. And in a really wonderful experience for me, and I practice mindfulness as well. The meditation has definitely had a huge impact on my life, and sense of wellness. And the other aspect of my life that I think I would like to put a shout out for is, well, two, one is nature spending time out in the natural world, if you can find it, wherever you can find it. There have been some really great publications recently about how it can lift mood, spirit sense of wellness and well being including a book called The Nature Fix, and I’m blanking on the name of the author right now. That I Josh might be looking it up right now for us.


Joshuah Whittinghill 56:36

And we are going to put all these recommendations into our show notes. And onto our website, so people will have access to these.


Tasha Alexander 56:42

Awesome. Okay, that talks about how how nature has an impact on you. And I’m an avid gardener, I have a big vegetable garden. And I spend a lot of time in the park. And it really does have an impact on my overall sense of well being and connection to the earth and to the world, especially as we see global warming starting to take a serious effect. And that brings me to probably one of the most important parts of my identity, identity in my work, which is the plant plant based movement. I’m a very active vegan. And I spend a lot of time on reading, reading books, podcasts, videos, and, and my garden is a big part of that, where I get to nourish my body and my soul. When I studied abroad lived in Spain, one of my best friends in Spain said, you should always tell people, hey, this is where I live. This is where I live. And this is my body for the rest of my life. And I’m going to take care of it and I’m going to nourish it. And I’m going to be as healthy as I can be. So that’s a big passion of mine. So I would recommend a couple of shows on YouTube. Sweet Potato Soul is a really great plant based podcast, cooking show. And the Goodful was another one that’s another favorite of mine. And in terms of books, How Not To Die and How Not To Diet by Dr. Greger. He also has a website called All of it is focused on the plant based movement. And it focuses on animal rights on wellness and also on, on a on protecting the environment and the art footstep or footprint in the environment. And then just last thing, anything that Cory Booker does, anytime I anytime Cory Booker pops up, I am just sitting there hanging on his every word. Yeah, that is always inspiring. Optimistic guy.


Joshuah Whittinghill 58:39

Welcome to the Tasha Alexander plant based podcast, right. That’s a whole nother world right there. That’s amazing. In general, though, right. One of the things right in some of these recommendations that that I hear and that we see is sometimes with first generation students quite often Tasha, you mentioned it, just the socio-economic side of being first generation. And to qualify as first generation for most programs in higher education. You do have to fall below a certain socio-economic guideline, right? Or be in certain in depending on family size things, but because I hear from some students, well, I can’t do that, because I can’t afford that. So I think some of your recommendations from the little bit I know about it, what you’ve shared, that there are ways to even eat healthy, to live healthy like that and be very, very affordable.


Tasha Alexander 59:27

Absolutely. Meal prep. wholefoods. Yep.


Joshuah Whittinghill 59:30

And you don’t have to go shop at a co-op where everything is maybe more pricey. You can do different ways. I know one student about three or four years ago, was interested in it, of doing it and he ended up learning how to garden so every summer he’s growing his own things and he went from not knowing about what a garden really was. Because he grew up in an urban in urban area where he couldn’t garden as a kid. It wasn’t part of life. But he was in Chico, he’s like wow, I can I can garden right outside my apartment now. So he really, really took that to heart and became really understanding of that. So I need to backtrack.


Tasha Alexander 1:00:01

I have to say that makes me think of one other YouTube talk if you have not seen it, it’s a TED talk. And that is Ron Finley, a guerrilla gardener in South Central LA. He’s been growing food that he teaches inner city kids how to grow food down in LA, and he’s growing food out on that half of land that’s between the sidewalk and the street. Okay, okay. And he had to fight hard to get the city to allow him to grow food on there, even though it was part of his property. So, anyway, that’s very inspiring.


Joshuah Whittinghill 1:00:39

Okay, so I’m gonna need to backtrack just a little bit before we get lost in those recommendations. Because you’re already gotten amazing recommendations. I have a couple but I need to I need to make sure that it’s not anything attributed to what I did. But thanks to the podcast of Teaching in Higher Education, and the host Bonni Stachowiak is an amazing podcast. If you are working as faculty, even as staff, they’re a great tips of how different resources different theories, a couple of guests have been on that show from the CSU Chico campus, Thia Wolf was on there talking about public pedagogy. And then Stephanie Bianco was on talking about basic needs and some of the work they’re doing with the Center for Healthy Choices here at Chico State. But I want to make sure that we make sure that clear that we’ve we’ve stolen that directly from that other podcast, because I thought it was a great way to kind of wrap up the podcast and really help them have some of those resources, like I mentioned, is one of our goals with this. So I do have a couple of recommendations myself then, one of them to go along with Tasha is an amazing book that I think I read it once a year, because it is an easy, short, quick read. But it’s called Seed Folks by Paul Fleischman. And it’s an amazing thing about inner city garden, basically, yes. And this, this kid tries to go out and garden in an empty lot. And people think that the kid is actually trying to hide things and all this and all of a sudden, these different cultures come out and they start to hear different stories of each character. And you get to meet a new character, each chapter. And it’s really interesting and an amazing story. It’s a young adult book. But it has a great like a great message and great story. So it’s called Seed Folks by Paul Fleischman. And then another recommendation that I have is one of the projects I started to do as we were moving home back at spring break this, you know, this last March was to collect stories from first generation students, what are their feelings? What were they going through at the time? How is it affecting them? How is it affecting their community? Right? And then it transitioned into discussions around race as that came up. And so people are sharing stories. But one of the main questions I have on there, because most all of my research that I do with students is how are you using music? What’s your relationship with music? How is that affecting? And so I asked one of the questions in the in the study, please share a song or an artist that you are listening to that’s impacting you and helping you through these times. And one of the students recommended, oh, gosh, of course, I just lost the name. Destiny Rogers, a singer and a song called Kickin Pushin. And I just wanted to read the the first verse from that song is a is an amazing message about even what first generation students are what I see people talking about as they come into college here. And it goes, “Right now, I know nobody really knows us. But one day, they’re going to know us. Oh, yeah. Right now my mama works the hardest, but I promise I’m gonna pay that mortgage off.” Right? So is this this message of like Michael mentioned, like this positivity, looking at the future trying to move forward. And the message we’ve had in this whole podcast today about making that change. So those are that and then the one last recommendation I have is a book that I find it hard to read a lot these days. I’m finding myself reading not as much as I would like to or typically do. But I’m is Kathleen Cushman. It’s called Facing Culture Shock of College. And it’s sort of an exposea each chapter is a story from a different first generation students sharing their story as they went to college. So those are the recommendations for the day. Thank you, everyone, for being able Teresa of course, you know, you and I are here. You’re amazing. So that’s that’s that’s goes without saying, but I say it anyway. Are you here, and Tasha and Michael, though, thank you for joining us on this first episode with guests. It’s been, it’s been wonderful hearing from you and talking and chatting and I look forward to future endeavors and collaborations as we move forward into our zoom semester. And and go from there. So Michael will be working again, right as a paraprofessional with the Educational Opportunity Program this year, helping mentor and advise and guide first year students and Tasha will continue doing amazing work with the International students and study abroad and what’s the official I always I forget there’s there’s like five different programs. But officially.


Tasha Alexander 1:05:06

Yeah, I’m not working with study abroad any longer. I used to I used to study abroad program years ago. It’s the International Student Services.


Joshuah Whittinghill 1:05:14

Services. Thank you. Yes. So um, yes. All right. Well, thank you everybody. And as we sign off a message, please take care of yourself and then take care of those around you that you can