Captain’s Academy

Faces of First Gen

Southwestern believes it is important for our faculty and staff to reflect the student body. As the number of first-generation college students continues to grow at SU, we want to recognize its first-generation faculty and staff. 

ACM Headshot

Anna Cortes-McCrary, Academic Success Coordinator

What motivated you as a first-generation college student? 

My friends and the staff in the Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services. I was really lucky to have a group of friends who were also first-generation and an office that felt like a second home at an institution where I didn’t always feel welcomed. They pushed me to be better and always reminded me that we would be THE change not only for our families but communities. 

Dave Seiler


Dave Seiler, Director of Academic Success

What does being a first-generation college student/grad mean to you?

I was able to fulfill the educational opportunities that my parents worked hard for and had provided for me. My parents believed and emphasized that having an education was the great “equalizer” in our society and afforded you many more opportunities in life.

Malissa Sanon


Malissa Ismaila, Director of Student Inclusion and Diversity

What is one piece of advice you would give to incoming first-generation college students now? 

Every day, just be a better version of yourself. Some days, it will not look worth it, but it is. Have a reminder, a picture, a song, or a letter, something that reminds you of your why, so when the vision gets cloudy, you will regain your focus. Also learn to forgive your family for not understanding the process. Sometimes “you still ain’t done yet” is a trigger, but remember they have never been through this or are unfamiliar with the process. Extend that grace. Sometimes good intended people, make mistakes. Always remember, the race is not given to the quick and the swift, but those who work hard for it. And you are doing a great job!


 Raquel Moreira, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies

What does being a first-generation college student/grad mean to you?

I grew up in a country in which a college education is an absolute privilege, so there was no effort or push to name and identify “first-generation” students. It was not until I came to the United States that I realized my experiences with higher ed were markedly different from those around me, especially in graduate school. These experiences, however, are vital in my ability to relate to and support first-generation students whom I now teach.