Exciting, terrifying, thrilling, overwhelming, life changing—attending a university or college can be all these and more. For those students who are the first of their families to seek higher education, stepping foot on a campus may feel more daunting.
In 1965, then-U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) on November 8. This act created federal financial aid programs to fund students’ education and made key investments in colleges and universities. The HEA saw the creation of many programs aimed to help students attend higher education institutions, most notably the Federal TRIO programs—federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds (learn more about USI’s TRIO and Student Services Programs online).
To celebrate this momentous act, each year on November 8, higher education institutions across the country honor the annual First-Generation College Celebration, highlighting students and graduates who are first-generation and showcase the importance of HEA after 58 years.
Click the boxes below to read the full stories!
Will Phillips, Academic Advisor, Liberal Arts
After graduating high school from South Spencer High School in Reo, Indiana, Will Phillips admits he wasn’t prepared to go to college. “As a first-generation student, no one was really having any conversations with me about college (during high school),” he explains. “But I found USI because I had gone to a summer camp here when I was in elementary school.” Starting at USI in the Fall of 2019, Phillips pursued and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2022. Now, he works to give back to USI students, helping to guide them during their academic journeys.
Aleisha Jones, Instructor in Marketing
Aleisha Jones admits she was not sold on the “college track” when she graduated high school. A native of Owensboro, Kentucky, she wasn’t sure what path she wanted to take for her career, so she enrolled in Owensboro Community and Technical College (OCTC) as a start. After two years and a connection with an advisor, Jones realized a higher-education path was right for her.
Anna Will, Director of Advising, Business, and Adjunct, College of Business
When it came to attending college, Anna Will (a 2017 Indiana University biology graduate) knew seeking a secondary education after high school would give her more opportunities. Growing up in St. Wendel, Indiana, about 15 miles northwest from Evansville, she knew gathering those opportunities and experiences would help her succeed.
Dr. Zachary Pilot, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Dr. Zachary Pilot may hail from Pennsylvania, but his hometown of Acme sits in one of the poorest counties per capita in the state. He knew growing up, he wanted to help others and find the answers to his questions about why we do the things we do. With the support of his family, Pilot became a first-generation student, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in 2012, and completing his master’s and doctorate degrees in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences division of the Psychology Department at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in 2017.
Marna Hostetler, Director of Library Services, David L. Rice Library
Education is important—that’s what Marna Hostetler’s parents always told her growing up. And with a love of learning, the Marion, Indiana, native decided to follow that advice by continuing into higher education after graduating high school. Hostetler pursued a double major in psychology and sociology at Indiana University, earning her degrees in 1993.