Take a moment to get to know Armani Eason. Armani is a very involved student at Missouri State, and she shares great tips and resources for our first generation and commuter students.
Tell us about yourself. I am originally from Chicago, Illinois. I moved to Springfield, Missouri my senior year of high school with my mother and my little brother. In total, I have four siblings, my little brother and three older sisters who currently reside in Iowa. When I first came to Springfield it was definitely a culture shock, and I was not comfortable, and I really did not like it. At first, I planned on attending a university in the state of Iowa to be closer to my sisters. The story of how I chose Missouri State for college is one that will always stick with me. My counselor my senior year recommended that I attend a trip to Missouri State with a youth program for African-American students in Springfield and surrounding areas. At first I was nervous because I didn’t really know what to expect, but I ended up talking to a few of the current MSU students, and they really made me feel welcome so I ended up picking
Missouri State. It was also cheaper and more convenient than other schools.
I am currently a Junior, double majoring in Fashion Merchandising and Intercultural Communication and Diversity. I have been extremely involved on campus since starting my first year here. My freshman year, I was the social media chair of a multicultural organization called the African Student Association (ASA). I also joined Mo State Lead and participated in Emerging Leaders. I was also a student in Bears L.E.A.D. my first and second year. In my sophomore year, I was the vice president of the African Student Association (ASA) and the public relations chair of a women’s empowerment group here on campus called Sister Circle. I was a general member of other organizations relating to my major such as the Sartorial Magazine and the Association of Fashion and Design (AFAD). This Fall, I will be on the Student Affairs Student Advisory Board, working alongside Dr. Dee Siscoe, Vice President for Student Affairs and others, ss well as being the social media chair for AFAD. And last but not least, I am a part of a program called TRIO which helps students who are first generation, have any disabilities or need financial assistance for college. So, as you can see I am extremely involved on campus and dedicated to making my Missouri STATEment and leaving a legacy at Missouri State.
I understand you are a commuter student and also a first-generation student. How did you navigate the transition into college? Being a first generation student and transitioning into college was one of the most
challenging things I have faced. Coming to a university with students from all over the place was very intimidating. I did not get the typical freshman college experience. By this I mean that I do not/did not live on campus or have a roommate or an Resident Assistant (RA) or anything like that I could go to with questions. I didn’t get to meet like a lot of people the traditional way. I was kind of thrown into the experience, so I had to work to find my place on campus because I thought that if I didn’t, I would not enjoy college as much as I could. One of the biggest things that I did was ask questions. I feel that is the first step to finding out anything. The questions I asked were about getting involved, certain classes or programs, anything that I thought I needed to know being a first generation college student.
What resources would you suggest for students that are commuter students and/or first generation students? Some common resources that I suggest for first generation college students are the ones that I am personally familiar with which is Bears L.E.A.D., TRIO and MSU: I’m First.
Bears L.E.A.D. is a program for freshman and sophomore to get to know the campus and campus resources that will help them be successful in college. Some aspects of this program include having a mentor and monthly meetings with the Coordinator of the program to talk about life, grades and general college advice. Along with the mentor program, you have a monthly checklist you complete. This checklist is easy to complete because if you are involved on campus, you are already participating in some of the activities on the checklist. This includes attending events, going to professors office hours, etc. At the end of each semester, you are rewarded with a stipend for completing all the requirements of the program as well as having the required GPA.
TRIO is very similar to Bears L.E.A.D. in the aspects of the requirements and the things that you do. The difference is that TRIO has a little bit of a higher required GPA, and it has different programs for each year of college.
MSU: I’m First is an organization that hosts events specifically for first generation students. MSU: I’m First helps you complete your FAFSA, study sessions and a lot of other things to help students get acclimated to college.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a first generation student? The biggest misconception I’ve noticed in regards to first generation students is about their success while being in college. A lot of people doubt first generation students will ever graduate. Some people believe they’ll drop out or have a whole bunch of student loan debt etc., when they graduate. Also, people even doubt first generation student’s ability to be involved on campus, afraid they will not know how to balance all that a college student has to balance. They really just don’t have much faith in first generation students. I always hear “just go try it out, and if it’s not for you, it’s okay, at least you made an effort”. These negative connotations starts the first generation student out on a bad foot from the beginning. First generation students need support the minute they make the decision to go to college, and through their college experience.
You are a SOAR leader this summer. How do you use your experience of being a first gen student and a commuter student when you work with your SOAR Students? As a SOAR leader, I am always sharing my experiences with my students. As an incoming student you are looking for someone to be honest with you, to lead you in the right direction and to give you great advice. Being personable with students and open
with them about my successes and failures as a first generation and commuter student, offers our new students the chance to get to know me and to learn from my experiences. This helps them not make the same mistakes I did when I started college. This is actually one of the main reasons I became a SOAR Leader. I know that I have experienced a lot in my personal life as well as my academic life that I can share such as tips and resources to help so
that our first generation students will succeed. What better way to do that then to be open and honest with them?
What are your top five resources for commuter students and why are they your top five? (1) My first resource for commuter students would be Dining Services. I recommend this because as a commuter student you don’t have a meal plan already set up. So you can connect with Dining Services (either online or at their office in Blair-Shannon House) to get a commuter meal plan so they don’t have to spend so much money.
(2) My second resource I recommend is campus safety and transportation. When you are a commuter, you are going to save so much money by just parking your car in a garage or parking lot (yellow lots for commuter students) and using the Bear Line to get you where you need to go. We also have a program where you can rent a bike to use on campus so if you live fairly close to campus, that would be beneficial. It saves you so much time trying to find a parking space or worrying about getting a ticket or even towed if you park in the downtown area and things like that, if you ride a bike.
(3) The third resource I would recommend is the Office of Student Engagement (OSE). OSE was my best friend my first year of college because it is where I found my campus home, and made my first connections. Being a commuter student and not living on campus, you don’t really HAVE to stay on campus but you should. You have a little bit more freedom to come and go as you please which I do NOT recommend. That will be one of your biggest regrets that you make in college is that you did not get involved. I hear so many people, mostly commuters, complaining about their college experience because they did not make that extra effort to stay on campus for events or to get involved on campus and see what was going on. It is one of the most effective ways to feel connected to this campus, and it makes you come back every day.
(4) The fourth resource I recommend is the Meyer Library. This is kind of an obvious one because of the 24 hour computer lab and all the various study places that are available. This will be very beneficial in between classes so that commuter students stay on campus, and be more productive rather than going home and trying to study in their bed and getting distracted by other things. You can also check out books plus all the other resources the library has to offer and even get some snacks while you’re at it.
(5) The last resource I would like to highlight is the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC). This is one of my favorite places on campus. We have two locations, one on the first floor of the Plaster Student Union (PSU) next to Starbucks, and the other is in the basement at Freddy House across from the Forsythe Athletic Center. The MRC is where I spend most of my time on campus, doing homework and utilizing the free printing services they offer. The MRC is definitely an underrated resource because not many people know about it or understand what the MRC does. Being in the MRC is where I honestly learned about myself and a lot more about other people on campus. The MRC has a transition closet for people who have interviews or are going through a change in their life etc. They also hold so many great events that are 100% free to all students and most of the time have free food. There are usually a lot of graduate assistants in the MRC to talk with, and there are always flyers and papers or applications you can fill out for so many things on campus. Both locations also have furniture and TVs and things like that so you can just hang out. People nap, do homework and have a really chill space to be open, laugh, debate and just be yourself.
What is your favorite Missouri State tradition? Why? My favorite tradition on campus is to take part in Welcome Weekend. It is a great time to meet all of the incoming students and relax before all of the homework and
classes, and your responsibilities start to pile up on each other. My favorite part of Welcome Weekend is the Belong-B-Q. The MRC puts on this event to showcase the multicultural organization and the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) organizations. There is tons of free food and great performances. This is a great time to mingle and catch up with some of the people that you haven’t seen all summer. There are so many events happening Welcome Weekend such as Bear Bash, PlayFair plus more. Welcome Weekend is a time to just relax, get back in the swing of things and have fun with everyone before classes actually start.
What is one piece of advice you would give to the family member of a commuter/first gen student? Some advice I would give to a family member of a first generation college student is to be a support system to your student. I understand this is a difficult transition for both the family and the student, but the main thing the student wants is support. Have faith in them that they will succeed, and do a great job. Even when they experience a few hiccups in their college experience, it is great for one person in their life to be positive and supportive and motivating. I understand that for a family member who may not have attended a four-year university, it is hard to provide advice on what the student should do but don’t hesitate to offer life experience advice. Just understand that this experience is for them. They have to transition and learn a lot of things that they never knew about or even heard about on their own which is extremely intimidating. Be that shoulder for them to cry on or provide them an ear that will listen to them. Your support will be one of the things they remember all their life.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an incoming first gen/commuter student? My biggest piece of advice to first generation college student is kind of one in the same. The first part is to ask questions and the second part is to get involved. I know we stress these two things a lot in college but coming from me, a current first generation student here at a university, it is very, very, very important. A lot of the opportunities that I listed above that I am currently involved in is all because I asked questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question and there’s no such thing as asking too many questions . Asking questions helped me to get involved and get connected here on campus.
Getting involved on campus will allow you to make lifelong connections with people who have the same
mindset as you or major or who you just enjoy spending time with. Getting connected will also give you so many opportunities that you would have never had if you hadn’t taken that step out of your comfort zone. You never know where these opportunities will get you, whether that’s a scholarship or a job or an internship. So PLEASE make your time here a little bit more enjoyable by finding out your purpose through getting involved, and making your Missouri STATEment.