Meet more of our Villanova First Generation Students, Faculty and Staff!
|STEPHANIE WALKUP||EGR||Civil Engineering||2018|
|JJ SHANLEY||Univ of Edinburgh||History||2004|
|STEFANIE KNAUSS||CLAS||Theology, English Language and Lit||2003|
|ALEXANDRA WAS||Boston University||Psychology||2010|
|TOM DEMARCO||Villanova University||Dean of Students||1989|
|RITA SICILIANO||CLAS||Liberal Arts - Education Dept||2003|
School of Business
Accounting & Finance
School of Business
Managment Information Systems
Music, BMus, MM
Music Activities Staff
Education and Spanish
Language and Literature
ANTHONY B. FREAY
Computer Science & Psychology
Concentration in Cognitive Science
MY STORY: Born in Sydney, Australia, I moved to the east coast of United States in 1990 and graduated from Villanova University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. Currently working full-time as an Inside Sales Engineer at Carrier Corporation, I assist in the design, construction, and sale of HVAC systems for large commercial applications. I actively participate at various disability conferences in the Philadelphia area, mentoring affected children and providing advice and support to their families to encourage their successful endeavors.
MY STORY: My mom is an immigrant from Jamaica and because of certain circumstances, she was not able to attend college. My mom also works at Villanova. It is because of my mom that I have this amazing opportunity to be able to go to Villanova University. She sacrificed a lot for me. I am the youngest of 5 and her first child to attend a 4-year University. My family is so proud of my accomplishments and I can’t wait to make them even prouder!
MY STORY: I'm from Philly, a place where textbooks aren't too common to use. Being a first generation student and STEM major, it was extremely hard for me to adjust to college. I didn't have the necessary academic background to automatically succeed at Nova. There would be times when I would cry to my mom, or Ms. Lauren about being here, despite thinking about college since I was 15. I even had a phase when I legit thought about dropping out, because I honestly believed that college just wasn't for me. Fortunately after a few months of self reflection, I realized that I deserve to be here as much as anyone else.
Penn State University
B.S. Business Administration,
M.Ed Counseling & Education,
College Student Personnel
MY STORY: I am a first generation college student. My parents had 9 children and always valued education. However, they were not able to attend college after high school because they both had to work. My mother especially inspired me to attend college because she had to work right out of high school in order to help take care of her family, as she had just recently lost her father and oldest brother...then married and had her own family to care for. My mother waited until my brothers and sisters were all in school before she went to college herself, earning an education degree at the age of 47. She was a great role model for my sisters and me, as we all ended up earning college degrees!
Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience
MY STORY: Being a first generation college student has made me appreciate the monumental accomplishment of obtaining a degree even more. While there have been challenges, being a first generation college student has allowed me to hone the skills of advocating for myself, building networks, and finding mentors that can help me achieve my goals. When it comes to being a first generation college student, it is always nice to know that I am not alone and I hope that my hard work here will make it that much easier for the next student like myself to shine here too. I am currently in the process of applying to graduate programs in Neuroscience and I look forward to becoming the first person in my family to earn not only a Bachelor's Degree but also a PhD as well.
MY STORY: I came from a relatively low-income single mom family. My personal interest in Amateur Radio and electronics as a child motivated me to pursue a four year degree. One of my first jobs was as a computer technician in Edgemont, PA. I learned about the electronic technician job opening here at Villanova from my old boss. While I worked in this position starting the summer of 1988, I enrolled in our part-time evening program for Electrical Engineering in the Spring of 1989. I came to Villanova already with a two year Associates in Engineering Degree from DCCC community college. Being the first and only child to earn a four year degree, I must say that God has blessed me immensely. I am a proud father of four girls which one is currently attending Boston University as a nutrition major. A second is attending Villanova University as a Civil Engineering major.
BRIAN DE JESUS
College of Nursing
MY STORY: I am and will always be proud to be a first generation college student. My parents were only able to each receive their associate’s degrees, and neither had much financially as they began their lives here in the United States. They wanted to be able to give their 3 sons more than they themselves had growing up, so I can only I will continue to make them proud as a pediatric nurse at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. And now, my youngest brother also has the opportunity to be a current student here at Villanova.
MY STORY: Words can not express how grateful I am to my parents for encouraging me to go to college. They taught me how to work hard and sacrifice; I owe my grit and fortitude to them. I am so grateful for the opportunities that I was given, for the mentors that helped me along the way, and for my unique perspective as a first generation college student. I discovered strength that I didn't know I had.
SHAUNA MAC DONALD
MY STORY: I'm an Associate Professor in the Communication Department here at Villanova. I began working here in 2011, after being the first in my extended family (at least in the past two generations) to earn a PhD. I'm from a working class region of Nova Scotia; my grandfather on my mom's side was a fisherman and coal miner. My paternal grandfather helped run a bus company and did many other kinds of jobs. While my grandparents (including my grandmothers) were (and are) highly intelligent, resourceful, and well-educated (for their day), most of the folks in my family finished high school and maybe some technical school before entering the workforce. My parents value education very highly, but neither went to college. It just wasn't something you did if you were from those industry towns, and it certainly wasn't something they could afford. My sister and I both attended our local university -- Cape Breton University -- on scholarship and as commuters. I am so grateful for that opportunity; it laid the foundation for where I am today. But it hasn't been easy. Universities are not built for first generation students OR faculty. I'm so grateful that this project is happening here; it's time we all shared our stories!!!
MY STORY: I come from a single parent, Filipino immigrant, below-the-poverty-line household in Philadelphia and I will be the first one in my family to receive a Bachelors degree from a four-year, private institution. As a prominent leader in my household, going to college was a necessity, but staying in college as a first-generation student has been a blessing and a challenge. It was difficult finding a space I felt comfortable enough to share my background, as well as finding other people at Villanova who understood what it was like to have this added pressure of being the first to go to college. However, I believe being a first-gen student has allowed me to be resourceful in using the connections and opportunities presented to me in order to grow and create my own future. In 10 years, I will be the first in my family to earn my PhD in International Literature, and my biography of resilience will be found in Villanova's future ACS courses so look out!
Richard J. and Barbara Naclerio Endowed Chair
in Business; Professor of Marketing
MY STORY: I was raised as an only child in a small town in Kentucky by my mom (homemaker) and dad (artist). I was fortunate to attend Belmont University on a basketball scholarship. If not for basketball, I likely would have taken a very different path after high school. With the help and encouragement from various mentors in my life, I graduated from Belmont and went on to earn an MBA and PhD. As a child, I never would have imagined ever leaving Kentucky, let alone being on the faculty at a world-class university like Villanova. I am thankful every day to those who invested and believed in me over the years. Go Cats!
College of Nursing
MY STORY: My name is Stephany Danquah and I am a first generation college student. As the first child in the family and the first child to attend college, I have to bear the weight of setting a smooth path for my brothers to follow. It is difficult being a first generation because I always have to make sure I am going above and beyond in order to pass my classes, assimilate to college, reach out for help on how to apply for financial aid, etc. Since no one in my family has attended college before, it becomes arduous to ask for help when applying for financial aid. Being first generation means I have to take advantage of every opportunity I get such as joining programs such as CASA to help me navigate my way through college.
MY STORY: My parents are immigrants who came in with just a little more than high school education. Raising 4 children all within 6 years of each other in age, they relied on their faith to carry them through the hard times. My oldest sister got a Presidential Scholarship and I was encouraged to apply for both the Presidential and Martin De Porres scholarships. I got the latter. While it wasn’t always easy, I persevered over both academic and personal issues to complete my degree.
MY STORY: While my parents did not have money to send me to college after high school and my high school experience was mostly for the social aspects of life, they always encouraged me to learn. They did not drill it into me but subtly said, "never stop learning". After raising my children, I heeded their advice and earned my B.A. in Leadership and a minor in Information Systems. As an adult learner, it is an experience I value, enjoyed and appreciated since my first day of class.
MY STORY: Being part of the first generation can often mean that you are experiencing many other "firsts" alongside your family. For example, you could help your parents sort through mortgage paperwork to buy your family's first home. Or, you could help your father fill out his application for unemployment benefits. Or, you could be an interpreter for your mother during jury selection. I am the first in my family to receive a bachelor's degree. But I sure had my share of "firsts" with the rest of my family.
Even as western culture praises individualism and self-identity, you cannot ignore all the challenges and victories that you face with your family. For me, being a first generation requires a healthy balance of personal growth and a deep love for family.
I don't have my degree with me (in Detroit). It hangs on the wall in my parents' home. That's because "my" degree is, in reality, our family's degree.
ELOISE BERRY, Ph.D.
Arts and Sciences
Student Life, Director
Office of Intercultural Affairs
MY STORY: I am First Generation. I grew up in West Philadelphia with two hard working parents and two siblings. I was fortunate to have had parents who valued education and sacrificed to send me to parochial and private schools, an older brother who earned a college degree and a cohort of friends who were college bound. As a result of hard work, I was fortunate to have earned a BA, MS, and a PhD by the age of 28. It was necessary for me to rely on mentors for guidance at each level of education. I am very thankful for having had emotional support from my parents even if they did not fully understand the magnitude of the tasks I faced.
St. Josephs University
MY STORY: I am proud of my 4 grandparents who immigrated to the US as teenagers and created a better life for their children and beyond.
MY STORY: Born and raised in Queens, New York with a potent Dominican & Puerto Rican culture, I am proud to say that I will be the FIRST to to graduate from college. My parents worked hard to send me to an elite college and reared me to do my best in school. All this hard work, and look where it got us!
Business Admin, MBA
Office of Intercultural Affairs-Staff
MY STORY: I'm a proud born and bred Puerto Rican Bronx girl that was the FIRST to graduate college with a Bachelors and then an MBA! My parents supported me through every step even when they didn't understand them all. I had to learn how to apply for college and financial aid on my own and took many missteps along the way. As frustrating as it was, it taught me a sense of independence and resourcefulness that I never take for granted. Because of those experiences, I landed on a career in higher ed, and don't see myself anywhere else, in order to give back to current students and alums!
Finance & Business Analytics|
MY STORY: My parents have striven their entire lives to ensure I have access to a good education, and can thus have opportunities they weren't privileged to have. I am determined to continue this journey, not just to make them proud but to also set an example for other Black girls who come behind me.
Georgia State University
MY STORY: I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. Navigating applying to college, applying for financial aid, and trying to discern what degree to choose was a challenging process because I did not have very much guidance from my parents or community. However, I am ultimately thankful for the experience I had because it taught me to be self-sufficient and creative. This experience also taught me the importance of self advocacy. I am proud to be a first-generation college graduate and wish to support any Villanova students who are the first person in their family to enter college.