I have an unusual class background for a college professor. One side of my family is working class. On that side, I was the first person to get a Bachelor’s degree (4-year degree). Some of my relatives on that side have worked as cocktail waitresses, secretaries, auto mechanics, beauticians, and cattle ranchers. The other side of my family is upper middle class, full of scientists, teachers, and other people with master’s degrees, going back several generations. On that side, I was the first person to get a PhD, but only by a year or two. (A PhD is a research degree, meaning that you get it by doing original academic research. In my case, I basically wrote a book on the role of values in science. Getting a PhD typically takes about 5 years after finishing a Bachelor’s or 4-year college degree. In my case it took 10 years, but that’s another story.)

Most college professors come from middle class backgrounds, with college-educated parents. This is one reason why a lot of first-gen students have trouble navigating undergrad and grad school: their professors don’t fully know what their students don’t know. This is sometimes called the “hidden curriculum.”

This page is home to a bunch of resources for my students, both undergrad and grad. All of it should be useful to first-gen students. Some of it will also be useful to students whose parents went to college, especially if they’re navigating unfamiliar parts of it (like grad school).

[If the bullet points aren’t links, I haven’t written the page yet]

  • A guide to academic degrees and titles
  • Interacting with your professors
  • Requesting a letter of recommendation
  • So you’re thinking about grad school
  • Research topics for grad students