Tracy Allen

Tracy Allen
Professional Title
Dean of the School of Sciences at SUNY Oneonta

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


What obstacles did you face in this context?

I grew up in poverty on a farm, deep in the mountains of Virginia. College was completely unknown to my family. When I decided to pursue higher education, I did so without any support from my family and against the direct guidance of my high school. Consequently, I was underprepared and underfunded. I had to academically catch up with my peers in college, who had taken calculus, physics and humanities in high school, while I focused on carpentry, welding and agriculture. My peers had time to study and enjoy downtime outside of the classroom, while I worked several jobs. Finding financial aid, unraveling bureaucracy, learning to study, and chasing sleep were barriers unique to my college experience as a first-generation student.

What advice do you have for other first-generation students?

I know it is scary, but talk to your professors. They want you to learn, and they care about you as a student and a whole person. Your life circumstances matter. I had a faculty mentor who saw unfulfilled potential in me. She made me think and filled me with inspiration. Academically, I am at this point in my life, writing these words, because she cared.


Ph.D. (1999) Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon; M.S. (1993) George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia; B.A. (1991) George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
Geography and Geoscience major

Resources for First-Gen Students

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