Take a moment to get to know Addy Emmons, Missouri State graduate student and proud first-generation student.
Tell us about yourself.
Hello! My name is Addy Emmons. I am currently a graduate assistant for the wonderful Office of Student Engagement and am pursuing my master’s degree in Student Affairs and Higher Education (SAHE).
I grew up in a small town about forty minutes west of Peoria, Illinois and I was raised in a strong, matriarchal family. I am the first in my family to go to college but can hardly take credit for achieving half of what I have accomplished. My academic success is every much my mother’s achievement as it is my own. She raised my little sister and I to chase down every opportunity achievable. For me, that path has been through education; my little sister is forging her own path in the United States Air Force.
My path to Missouri State University specifically felt a bit unusual. After finishing my undergraduate degree at a small university near Chicago, I worked for my alma mater for three years as a Residence Hall Director before making the switch to education. Although teaching high school students gave me a few hilarious stories, I missed working in Higher Education. I heard about MSU through the grape vine, had the opportunity to hear Dr. Nicole West’s vision for the SAHE program, and was sold!
You noted you are a first-generation student. Can you tell us how being a first-gen student impacted your college years? What resources did you find useful at your university/college?
Yes! I am a proud first-generation student but I was not always proud of my first-generation student status. The first time I heard the term ‘first-generation student’ it was described to me as, “a student who needs extra help navigating college because their parents did not go to college and cannot help them”. In that moment, I outwardly thanked that person but internally I was annoyed that someone hinted that my mom and I needed help. We were just fine.
I wanted to be like everyone else and navigate this experience on my own. I did not realize that they were not navigating it on their own but rather calling home to get advice from family members about course load, FASFA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), student organizations, networking, and internship opportunities. Asking for help would have made me like everyone else. Trying to do it on my own has made me a stronger individual in the long run but also put me behind my peers.
I have personally met some of the first-generation staff at Missouri State University and they are wonderful. If you or your student is not comfortable going to a first-generation event, they would be more than happy to meet with you one on one.
You are getting your Masters in Student Affairs. What does student affairs mean to you? Why did you choose the field of student affairs? What would you like to do after you graduate?
In many ways, student affairs chose me as much as I chose student affairs. My sophomore year of college I became a Resident Assistant and loved being able to invest in and encourage first-year students. Seven years later, I still value the opportunity and the privilege to invest in college students.
I have worked in Residence Life, Academic Advising, Conduct, Orientation, and Programming. Each role granted me the opportunity to see a different facet of the student affairs umbrella. I do not have a specific job title in mind as of yet but I do hope to continue advising student leaders. My favorite part of my jobs has been watching and participating in the growth and development of my students. They have a tendency to underestimate their own capacity for greatness and it is truly a privilege to help foster their growth.
You work with the Traditions Council which is a student organization. Why is important for students to get involved on campus? How does that help the college experience?
Yes!! Go Bears! I have loved my time working with both the Traditions Council and Homecoming Committee. I could talk for ages why getting involved on campus is so consequential for students but I will not bore you. Instead, here is a fun video to watch instead of paragraphs to read https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NR7U2lsChgw
What is your favorite tradition at Missouri State? Why?
My favorite tradition is easily, hanging out by the John Q. Hammons Fountain. Simply, “the fountain” is the heart of campus. On a beautiful day, students descend on the fountain to spend time with friends, do homework, or play yard games.
What lessons have you learned from the pandemic that we are still going through?
The pandemic has taken a lot from many of us. Jobs, security, loved ones, and a decent amount of sanity. I, like many others, slipped into an attitude of “poor me” and fixated on all of the things that we could not do. Luckily, I was supervised by Tara Benson that first semester. If you do not know Tara, she radiates positivity and encouragement. Each meeting she refocused my perspective to what we can do and the opportunities we still have. Once that mental shift finally hit, I began to see the world differently. The resiliency of people is amazing. Their grit and determination to keep moving forward despite whatever life throws at them deserves to be respected and honored. I am not thankful for the pandemic but I am thankful for the circumstances that led to me sitting in Tara’s office.
What advice would you give to a first generation student getting ready to start college?
Get involved!! Every student affairs professional says this but it is true. There are so many wonderful opportunities and organizations on MSU’s campus. If you do not know where to begin, your RA is a wonderful resource of information. If you do not have an RA, you are welcome to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, when you move from home to campus do not take your clothes off of their hangers. Group your hanging clothes in bunches of 7-10, hold a trash bag open-side down, cut a slit in the middle of the seam, and put the trash-bag around your clothes with the tops of the hangers poking through the trash bag. It will save you hours.
What advice would you give to family members as their student goes through their college years?
This piece of advice might seem a tad strange but do not let your student return home that first month and a half of their first year. My mom read somewhere (probably in a newsletter like this) that it was best for students to remain on campus for their first six weeks and so she made me stay on campus for my first six weeks of college.
It felt awful. After my third week I felt so homesick and just wanted to go home. Her exact words were, “I love you but no. Go make some friends”. That was very far from what I wanted to hear but exactly what I needed.
As a Resident Hall Director, I saw from a more objective perspective how monumental those first six weeks are for students. The students who toughed out the homesickness, went to the events, and began to socialize were so much better adjusted to campus life than their counterparts. Those students who went home in those first few weeks typically formed a pattern of returning home and missed out on so much that campus life had to offer.
(submitted by Addy Emmons, Programming Graduate Assistant- Spirit and Traditions, Office of Student Engagement; Practicum student, First Scholars; graduate student, Student Affairs in Higher Education masters program; Missouri State University)