J.T. Hird, Associate Professor - Department of Mathematics
North Carolina State University, Ph. D. - Class of 2012
What advice would you give to first generation students at WVU Tech?
You don't have to know exactly what you're going to do for a career. Try out different things to see what you like. This might mean signing up for an internship or co-op, or just taking an extra elective in a subject you like. Maybe try being a tutor to see if you like teaching. Remember that you don't have to follow the pattern sheet exactly; talk to your advisor if you want to take different classes. Make sure you do the best you can in each class; you never know what material is going to be helpful to you in other classes or your future job.
What do you wish you had known before coming to college?
I wish I had known what kinds of things I should be applying for and when those applications were due. There were a lot of opportunities that I missed out on because I didn't find out about them until too late. For instance, when and how do you apply to college/grad school/jobs/financial aid? How and why do you fill out the FAFSA? Do I have to take any additional exams (GRE/MCAT/FE) for my particular discipline?
As a first generation college student, what was one obstacle that you had to overcome?
The biggest obstacle that I had to overcome was my own laziness. I liked to slack a lot, and at one point in college I realized that I was going to hit a wall and my grades were going to drop. So I decided I was going to take the whole college thing a lot more seriously than I had before. In addition to attending class and taking notes, I started reading the book until I understood exactly what they were talking about. I did every problem in the book, not just the ones that were assigned. Basically, I just put forth my very best effort (and I understand that's going to look different for each person and for different classes) and that course that I was dreading ended up being not that scary.
What things can people do to be champions for first generation students?
Be patient with others. Realize that people with different backgrounds will learn in different ways. We have to make sure that we listen as much as we talk.