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Linda Bressler, Associate Professor
College of Business
As I am a first-generation college graduate, I’m extremely interested in helping students who fall in this category as I understand what the students will face as the first in their family to acquire a college degree.
In my case, I was the first in my family to even take a college course as my Dad was a mechanic and my Mom was a housewife. My ethnic background is French-Canadian and I’m 1/8th American Indian as well. This culture did not always encourage higher education especially for women.
My Dad was an alcoholic and although not always physically abusive, he was verbally abusive and I learned how to be “invisible” and spent lots of time in our woods reading (we had 10 acres of land including several pine groves and a brook in New England). I found a really good hiding place by the brook; however, it did get a bit cold in the winter particularly, but during the other 3 seasons, it was heaven.
I loved school and was particularly good in Math. I asked my parents to sign the permission sheet so that I could take Algebra and other college-prep courses. My Dad said “No, why would you want to go to college…after all, you are just going to get married and have children…what good would that do for a “girl.” In spite of my family’s attitude, I still thought I could go to college but when I asked my Dad to complete the financial aid forms in my Senior year in high school, he refused to complete the income section indicating that he was not going to “…tell them how much money I make…” so with no money to enroll in college, I joined my three friends and we carpooled to our jobs at the insurance company in the city.
After I finished high school, I was soon engaged to my (now) husband but worked at the insurance company until I had my first son. After my first son was 2 and ½ years old, I went back to work at the insurance company as a clerk and was soon being delegated budgetary duties, etc. I was making barely minimum wage but I was doing my manager’s financial/accounting responsibilities. My husband (not first generation college) said “enough was enough” and suggested I go back to school.
It took me 12 years to earn my BSBA in Accounting at Clark University taking courses when money was available because back then, it was virtually impossible for a non-traditional middle-class woman to acquire grants of any kind. In addition, while taking classes, I had to juggle work, dealing with a Dad who had alcoholics Alzheimer’s, a mom who was ill, and my husband who was also taking night classes on the evenings I was not in school. My Mom would often ask me, “all this school, Lin, will it help you get ahead?” and when I said yes, she would look at me curiously and say “then, do it!”
In the first few years of taking college classes, I was the oldest student in the class. I remember taking a language course in Greek and I was the only student who did not have 2 years of Latin, 4 years of French, etc., etc. and I had to drop that class and take another class because I was attempting to learn the Greek alphabet and keep up with students more readily prepared and I fell too far behind.
My graduation with a BSBA in accounting was extremely emotional because my Mom and Dad came to the ceremony with my Dad not drinking the whole day as to not embarrass me. My husband and both my boys were at the ceremony as well as all my family. I continued to earn my MBA in Accounting Information Systems on a full time basis, while working my way up the corporate ladder at Digital Equipment Corporation. My younger son was diagnosed with a learning disability and I left my corporate job to teach at a local community college whereby I would have afternoons to help his teacher in his classes and to tutor him at home. I think it was at this point in time that I realized that I was a pretty good teacher and started to think about university teaching and eventually earned my D.B.A in Management in 2000 while teaching full time. Unfortunately, the doctorate was a bit more expensive than my other classes so I had to take a college loan and I’m still paying on my college loan even now.
I think because it was such a struggle for my husband and myself working and taking college courses as we were able, our children were brought up with the attitude that it was not “if” the boys were going to school but where. This attitude paid off as both boys now have earned Masters degrees with my younger son (child with the learning disability) being accepted to the U.S. Army Uniform Services Clinical Psychologist Ph.D. program which he will begin in the fall when his deployment in Afghanistan ends.
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Last updated or reviewed on 9/13/10