Diversity & Student Success Spring 2017 Speaker – Dr. Sonja Ardoin
First Gen is Not My Only Identity: Framing First Generation Student Experiences
First generation student status is receiving more attention in higher education. Institutions are creating programs, centers, and services to aid first generation students in their navigation of the many systems within the academy. While this progress is to be applauded, it should also be recognized that this identity is complex and is only one of the multiple dimensions of identity that students bring with them to college. For Dr. Sonja Ardoin, being a first generation college student is a salient dimension of her identity. She is the first person from her rural, farming family to pursue higher education, a fact that created both opportunities and challenges. She also identifies as a white, Cajun, working class, Catholic, cisgender woman who is temporarily able. In this session, she will share her story of being first gen—through all three of her academic degrees, and 11 years as a higher education administrator and faculty member—and why she chooses to study others who carry this same identity. It is her hope that others can see some of themselves in her story and the research data, while also considering how each first generation student has a unique identity which frames how they experience higher education.
Dr. Sonja Ardoin is learner, educator, and facilitator. She originates from “Cajun country” and is proud of her first generation to PhD educational journey, including degrees from LSU, Florida State, & NC State. Sonja grew up poor and working class and still identifies as blue collar in many ways. Sonja’s higher education career path includes experience in student activities, leadership development, community engagement, fraternity and sorority life, student conduct, and academic advising. She is currently serving as program director and clinical assistant professor of Higher Education at Boston University. Her research interests include college access, social class identity in higher education, student and women’s leadership, and professional pathways and career strategies in student affairs. She authored The Strategic Guide to Shaping Your Student Affairs Career in 2014 and is currently working on her second book, focusing on class identity and college access.