Servant Leadership: How UW-Superior's First-generation Faculty & Staff are Supporting First-generation Students

Monte Stewart, Kylie Sievers, Jessie Pooler, and Marsha Lue, University of Wisconsin-Superior, TRIO McNair Scholars Program Director / The Center / September 29, 2023

TRIO Office Team at University of Wisconsin Superior


The University of Wisconsin-Superior (UW-Superior) serves a prominent population of first-generation students, as almost 50% of undergraduate students identify as first-generation. Many faculty and staff are also first-generation students. UW-Superior has leveraged the talents and expertise of the faculty and staff to support first-generation students’ success and build a community of support and belonging for first-generation students.

This past year, UW-Superior TRIO programs collaborated to host a First-Generation Celebration Day, which included highlighting our institution’s first-generation faculty and staff.


Many of our first-generation faculty and staff had important words of wisdom to share about how to be successful as first-generation students.

Anya Russom, the International Programs Manger, said, “This stuff is hard, and you’re doing it! You are the architect of your own education at UWS, and we are here to make sure you can build as high as you can dream. Keep at it! And if you need a break from UWS, why not consider studying away?”

Michelle Foss, Residence Life Associate Director and former TRIO McNair Scholar, shared, “We have so many great resources on our campus and chances are you aren’t the only one with that question.”

Dr. Wendy Kropid, Assistant Dean of Educator Preparation Programs and Professor of English Education declared, “Follow your dreams and be sure to connect regularly with others who are working towards and who have completed their college degrees. Your family is a great source of support; the support of others who have a full college perspective is helpful as well.”

 Alli Willingham, an Assistant Teaching Professor, stated, “Ask questions and keep in contact regularly with your professors. They can help acclimate you to the college environment!”

Jessie Pooler, UW-Superior TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Academic Coach, highlighted the impact TRIO McNair had during her undergraduate journey, and how that influences her current work today: “As a first-generation student I knew nothing about college and did not choose a major until my junior year. Still unsure of what I wanted to do, I went to talk to a professor about adding a psychology minor and he said I didn’t need a minor, I needed McNair. He showed me the website and connected me with the staff. Had he not given his time in that moment I would never have known what McNair was nor would I have earned a graduate degree because I self-selected out of everything, thinking it was not meant for me or I was not good enough. McNair gave me confidence and changed my life all because Dr. Dunn took the time to introduce me to the program.”

As UW-Superior approaches their First-Generation Celebration Week in early November, first-generation faculty and staff will again be asked to share their expertise and be highlighted as we continue cultivating a culture of care and community of belonging for first-generation students. UW-Superior's First-Generation Celebration Week events will begin the week of October 30, 2023, culminating with the First-Generation Day Celebration on November 2, 2023. 

For more information on University of Wisconsin-Superior's approach, please visit their website here.