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First-generation Professionals in Higher Education Book Cover

First-generation Professionals in Higher Education: Strategies for the World of Work

Career and Workforce Development Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Mid-Level
March 15, 2022 Mary Blanchard Wallace The University of Alabama at Birmingham

First-generation Professionals in Higher Education: Strategies for the World of Work explores complexities related to the transition from college/professional school to the work world of higher educa­tion, as well as the advancement from mid- to senior-level leadership, and how first-generation professionals navigate these transitions. Framing their chapters in the asset-based lens of cultural capital, the authors approach topics of navigating the field of higher education as first-generation professionals through personal experience as well as evidence-based approaches and strategies. Organized in three sections–Professional Identity, Purposeful Interaction, and Career Path—the book examines concepts such as imposter syndrome, politics, financial literacy, resilience, networking, mentoring, career progression, and more. Each chapter includes activities, exercises, and questions for reflection, offering readers an opportunity to discern strategies for their own professional development.

Paperback | 2022 | 260 pages

ISBN: 978-1-948213-36-3

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Table of Contents

Doris Ching


Chapter 1: First-generation Professionals as Influencers
Mary Blanchard Wallace

Chapter 2: Imposter Syndrome Revisited: A Journey of Learning and Unlearning
D’Andra Mull

Chapter 3: Navigating Bureaucracy and Politics
Willie Banks

Chapter 4: Money Management: Understanding Personal Finances
John R. Jones III


Chapter 5: Resilience: First-generation Professionals Persist
La’Tonya Rease Miles and Danette D. Buie

Chapter 6: The Power of Community: The Importance of Professional Networks and Resources
Samantha Payton and Brandi Hephner LaBanc

Chapter 7: Empowerment Through Mentoring
Robin M. Williamson


Chapter 8: First-generation Graduates in Mid-Level Career Transitions
Ainsley Carry

Chapter 9: How Being a First-generation Graduate Influences Faculty Experiences
Sonja Ardoin, Claudia Garcia-Louis, and Darris R. Means

Chapter 10: Pathways to Senior Leadership
Patricia S. Smith and Brian O. Hemphill

The Authors

Praise for First-generation Professionals in Higher Education

“This book gives the reader constant opportunities for reflection, tangible examples of experiences seen in various professional environments, and critical steps for first-generation college students as they prepare and navigate becoming or enhancing their professional identities. I certainly wish I had this level of detail during my own ‘first-gen’ experience.” —Yolanda Norman, Associate Vice President of Student Development, Concordia University Texas

“First-generation Professionals in Higher Education is a comprehensive treatment of the characteristics, needs, and potential of first-generation students and professionals at various stages of educational and professional development. The authors offer a diverse and rich range of perspectives on this important—and often maligned—population. This book should be read and discussed by all types of educators at all types of postsecondary institutions.” —John N. Gardner, Founder and Executive Chair, John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

“From the weight of navigating social capital to combating imposter syndrome, our first-generation students become first-generation academics and student affairs professionals. This text uncovers the various ways that this identity manifests throughout their professional experiences in higher education and, more importantly, how we can support and validate them.” —James K. Winfield, Associate Dean for FYE, General Education, and Retention Strategies, Southern New Hampshire University

“This inspiring book is an authentic and insightful resource for first-generation professionals at all levels. The authors’ informative, encouraging, and affirming accounts provide valuable food-for-thought for individuals to reflect on and design their own career paths. A very worthwhile read!” —Diana M. Doyle, President Emerita, Arapahoe Community College

“As a fellow first-generation administrator, I found First-generation Professionals in Higher Education extremely validating. The text highlights many important facets related to the first-generation experience and how it translates into our work as student affairs administrators. I would highly recommend this book for graduate students and professionals at all levels.” —Juan R. Guardia, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, University of Cincinnati

“This book validates my personal and professional experiences as a first-generation, Black, female, senior leader. I feel seen, heard, and valued.” —Kimberly M. Lowry, Vice President, Student Success and Instruction, Lone Star College–Houston North