By Barry Shiller
In the red state/blue state America of 2007, the term “border crossings” conjures scenes of shouting matches in congressional hearing rooms and on cable news scream-a-thons. A bit less thoughtful than Collegiate Seminar.
In this issue, you’ll meet women and men who have confronted and crossed significant borders. They are a diverse lot: professional dancers transitioning to new careers and lives; first-generation college students facing unique challenges and opportunities; nine pioneering Christian Brothers who heeded the church’s call to take the helm at Saint Mary’s College.
With its Lasallian commitment to serving students and families of modest economic backgrounds, the College welcomes first-generation students. Professors Phylis Martinelli and Dana Herrera are examining the experiences of students who entered Saint Mary’s without the counsel, perspective and support commonly available to students whose parents attended college.
Phylis and Dana were “first-gens,” as was I. Chatting with Phylis in her Garaventa Hall office, it was apparent that we shared several common experiences as college students. We were pretty much in the dark about scholarships and other financial aid options. Our parents viewed college as a path to better-paying jobs, not intellectual or personal growth. As my late father put it, “Barry, liberal arts?”
I asked Phylis to reflect on how her research has affected her. She paused and shut her eyes before responding.
“I never used to talk about my personal college experiences,” she admitted. “I do now, although I’m not always sure why. I do know there’s still a little bit of a stigma being a first-generation student. I hope that your readers realize that current first-generation Saint Mary’s students are experiencing many of the same things they did. I think that’s important.”
So do we.