Wake Forest University faculty and staff have self-identified as first-generation college graduates. This directory serves as a resource for current First in the Forest students who want to connect with faculty & staff from similar backgrounds.
If you are a faculty or staff member who would like to be featured on the list, please fill out the appropriate form below:
Dr. Amanda Griffith
Associate Professor and Chair, Economics Department
Ask questions and take advantage of the resources available to you!
Dr. Jennifer Burg
Professor, Computer Science
Try to find the area where you could make the best contribution to the world. Everyone has something special to give.
Dr. Kristen Beavers
Assistant Professor, Department of Health and Exercise Science
I am a first generation four year college student/graduate. My advice for all students is to learn how to maintain a growth mindset — it’s not about what you currently know, it’s what you are capable of learning. Once you figure that out, college is a lot less intimidating (and a lot more fun!).
Dr. Michael Hughes
Dr. Leah McCoy
Ask questions. Seek friends. Remember you DO belong.
Dr. Janine M. Jennings
Associate Professor, Psychology
Be proud of what you have achieved to be here at Wake and don’t be afraid to ask questions of anyone while you are here!
Dr. Nikki Elston
Assistant Teaching Professor, Counseling Department
Get involved in student organizations, ask for help, talk to your faculty!
Dr. Simone Caron
You are as capable and brilliant as any other student. Have confidence in yourself because that is half the battle.
Dr. José Villalba
Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion; Chief Diversity Officer
Ask for help; don’t ever be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.
First in the Forest Advisor
Build community by engaging with the Intercultural Center, Women’s Center, LGBTQ+ Center, or joining a fraternity/sorority. Meeting new people was the best part of college to me. Much of my identity development in undergrad was because of the amazing folks I met while participating in events and organizations on campus. First in the Forest and the rest of campus are here to support you and help you reach your professional, academic, and personal goals.
Dr. Jeffrey Katula
Associate Professor, Health and Exercise Science
Be mindful; explore and utilize all the resources available to you at WFU!
Dr. Sarah Moore
Visiting Assistant Teaching Faculty, Department of Counseling
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Particularly in a private school setting, you may feel like you are different than others because of parents’ careers, financial resources, and comfort in campus environment. Know that you belong here and you can do this!
Erica Talley, B.A.
Sociology Academic Coordinator
Being denied access to places you belong does not negate the fact that you belong.
Dr. Kenneth Simington
Assistant Teaching Professor, Counseling Department
Embrace your journey. Stay focused on your goals. Make your family proud. Enjoy your time at Wake.
Stephanie Reitz, B.A.
It is never too late to get a degree.
Shelley Sizemore, M.A.
Director of Community Partnerships (OCCE)
Go to the thing. Whether it is an info session, office hours, or a speaker series, a lot of resources go to people who show up.
Dr. Stephen Boyd
John Allen Easley Professor, Department for the Study of Religions
Take advantage of office hours; get to know your professors and they you; take advantage of the Writing Center and other services on campus; go through the Divisional Requirements not around them; choose a major/minor that you are passionate about; make a diversity of friends.
Dr. Cherise James
Associate Director, Orientation and Lower Division Programming
Reach out, make connections early and often. Don’t wait until something “goes wrong” to be reach out and make connections.
Dr. Alessandra Von Burg
Associate Professor, Department of Communications
Find at least one faculty member/mentor/adviser who believes in you, sees your difference as excellence, and answers all your questions without condescending to you. Embrace your unique perspective and experience as strengths. Be patient with those who are not kind to you (at first, then run…)
Medina Thompson, M.Ed.
Operations Assistant, Office of Residence Life and Housing
Don’t get discouraged! Know that you are creating a new legacy and pressing forward in your goals. Do not hesitate to reach out for help with the many resources that Wake is providing. We are here to champion you on!
Dr. Susan Fahrbach
Professor & Chair, Biology
Camry Wilborn, M.S.
Assistant Director, Community Partnerships (OCCE)
Ask for help! Use this directory to find the resources that you need. There was so much institutional help when I was at Wake. I didn’t learn about these opportunities until I asked.
Dr. Bradley Burroughs
Assistant Director, Leadership and Character in Religious Life
Do not hesitate to reach out. There are more people here who want to help you than you would likely guess.
Dr. Daniel Johnson
Teaching Professor, Biology
Remember that this is YOUR journey. Do what is right for your dreams and goals, not what you think others expect. Give yourself room to fail, learn from your mistakes, and try again.
Deb Marke, B.S.
Assistant Director, Advocacy and Social Justice Education (OCCE)
It’s okay to not know everything, including what you want to do with your life. One of the best things that you can do is ask questions. Meet with people who are doing the things that you wish to be doing-ask them how they got there, what experiences were valuable for them, what they wish they could have done differently. Networking sometimes gets a really bad rap, because it’s often times viewed as what can you make happen from me. However, some of the most valuable networks that I have is built on mutual support, mentorship, and growth from both ends- and all it took was for me to show up, to ask questions, and be receptive to feedback. If you are struggling, ask for help- it is not a sign of weakness, it’s not brave to struggle in silence, in fact it is courageous to seek support. There are so many people and offices on this campus who are here to support you in the ways that you need, but sometimes it means you have to ask for that support. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world that values caring for one another so we have to learn to be our own best advocate.
Dr. Francisco Gallegos
Assistant Professor, Philosophy
Read the book “Moving Up Without Losing Your Way” by Jennifer Morton.
Dr. Phillip Lamarr Cunningham
Assistant Professor, Media Studies
Realize and accept that you do not have to do everything on your own. You have resources at your disposal that others have no qualms about utilizing. Nor should you!
Noah Mass, B.S.
Coordinator of Sports
Believe in yourself and embrace the unknown. I felt like I knew nothing going to college and basically did everything on my own. Just believe that you got into the school for a reason, you belong and your learning and creating a whole new path for your family in the future.
Dr. Woodrow Hood
Professor, Communication; Director, Film and Media Studies Program
Maggie Sheridan, M.A.
Never underestimate the value of connecting with campus resources.
Dr. Stephanie Koscak
Associate Professor, History
Worry less during your first year or two about jobs/majors and what you will do with your degree after graduation, especially if you’re pursuing the liberal arts. You will have many skills for many different careers, and you will end up with employment (don’t allow that to dictate what you do). And a small piece of advice — visit your professors in their office hours. Office hours are student hours. You don’t need a reason to go. Go because you thought something was interesting in class, or because you thought of an idea related class discussion, or because you just want your professor to learn more about you. I didn’t know this and often avoided office hours as an undergrad. And they’re so important, especially if you will be asking faculty to write recommendation letters for internships or graduate school.
Dr. Ashley Lewis Heffner
As a First Gen Student, you are already braver then I was at your age. I was so intimidated by schools like Wake that I didn’t even have them on my radar. It is okay if you are feeling overwhelmed or intimated at times. Always remember you earned your place here and that means you can do the work. There are plenty of support offices on campus (like my office in CLASS!) that love meeting with students and helping them reach their academic potential. As a first gen student, you may not be able to call home and ask your parents about what to expect about college or midterms or finals (or the social side of college), but there are many people here at Wake that will share that knowledge with you. Find a mentor (or several!), whether that be a faculty, staff, or upperclassman, to help you along the way.
Dr. Susan Rupp
Associate Professor, History
Take advantage of all the opportunities you have while you have them, and embrace learning for learning’s sake!
Assistant Director, Study Abroad; Global AWAKEnings Program Coordinator
Try not to be afraid to ask for help – so many people want to support you during your college experience.
Dr. Lisa Kiang
You belong here. You’re not alone. Be proactive. Reach out to faculty, staff, peers.
Dr. Patrick Bingham
Network and get to know people who are not first gen. Get as involved as you possibly can socially and academically. Study abroad. Ask lots of questions and find out about as many funding opportunities, student leadership roles as possible. Uncover the hidden curriculum by talking through things with your peers. Say hi to everyone in your dorm and participate. You don’t have to do things you don’t want to, but you should put yourself out there as much as possible. Also, don’t forget that you need to balance the above with your education. Do as well as you can in school, but don’t overdo it. Learning to balance the social with your obligations and time management are critical skills to develop, not just for a successful university education, but also a successful working life future.
Dr. John V. Petrocelli
Set your own standards.
Dr. Kristi Verbeke
Director of Educational Development, Center for the Advancement of Teaching
Get involved as much as you can to connect to the campus and get to know your professors!