Alumni Amanda Morgan and Suzy Fonseca Share Motives for Helping First-Generation Students Succeed
If Amanda Morgan could wave a magic wand, she would love to grow the Expanding Diverse Group Experiences (EDGE) program beyond its current capacity of serving 25 new students per year. She became involved in EDGE, a Carson College of Business program supporting first-generation students, a couple of years ago.
Having been a first-generation student herself, Morgan (’06 Hosp. Busi. Mgmt.) found the idea of mentoring EDGE students very appealing when program director Stacey Smith-Colon approached her about helping out. As a Carson College graduate, she has great memories of caring professors and a sense of community within the university system.
“Being a part of a college that actively works to remove barriers to success is invigorating and compels me to stay connected in any way I can,” she says.
Meeting students where they are
As the associate director of WSU’s Academic Success and Career Center, Morgan lends her advising expertise to EDGE students whenever needed. For some, it’s just reviewing their résumés or walking them through resources. For others, she engages in whatever capacity is needed. She’s attended EDGE orientations in person and virtually, worked with students in small group settings, and participated in the college’s 2021 panel discussion on first-generation students.
Morgan says developing communication and confidence are among the top skills first-generation business students should have. “There is such a sense of impostor syndrome that can happen when entering a new environment, especially as first-generation students are approaching their new post-WSU career,” she says. “They should know they have overcome many obstacles, are resilient, and have a stellar education that has prepared them for this role.”
As a result of working closely with WSU students across campus, she sees firsthand the need for students to engage in high impact learning experiences and build long-lasting networks, and how EDGE is helping first-generation students achieve that.
Morgan encourages others to support students in any way possible. “Even if you cannot make a financial commitment, your time mentoring and supporting students can be just as valuable, perhaps even more so,” she says.
Suzy Fonseca prepares students for leadership roles
Suzy Fonseca, regional president of Lower Valley Credit Union, a division of Self-Help Federal Credit Union, in Sunnyside, Washington, once lived in farm labor camps with her family. She didn’t enter college until she was an adult with a young family and recalls the intensity it took to balance classes, work, and family.
“As a first-generation graduate, I love it when I get to share my experiences with students,” she says. “Knowing I might be able to impact a first-generation student’s life is very motivating for me.”
Like Morgan, Fonseca (’14 Mgmt. Op.) became involved in supporting the EDGE program after meeting Smith-Colon and being inspired by her dedication to first-generation students. Fonseca also accepted an invitation to be a participant in the college’s 2021 first-generation panel discussion. From there she became a mentor and has leveraged her organization to offer three paid internships for EDGE students.
She says interns develop strong leaderships skills by being self-contributors and responsible for working directly with the branch leadership team, community organizations, and contributors to develop strategic business plans. Interns are exposed to a multibillion dollar financial institution focused on serving minority individuals and also get to test their theories, evaluate successes, and identify areas for improvement of the plans.
Moving forward, Fonseca would like to see an ongoing partnership evolve between Self-Help Federal Credit Union and the EDGE program. She would also like to see families become more involved in their students’ educational path and not shy away because of their social, economic, or citizenship status.
Habits for success
Fonseca suggests first-generation business students practice four key competencies prior to joining the workforce, starting with knowing their audience when speaking. “I’m not talking about a language barrier, I’m talking about pace and motivation in communicating,” she says. A strong work ethic, being a team player, and passion also top the list when it comes to making a candidate stand out, she notes.
Fonseca would love it if more EDGE students work directly with mentors in their industry of interest. “This could do one of two things—it could solidify their choice in the respective field, or it could help them decide on another path,” she says.
Rewards of philanthropy
Witnessing the passion of EDGE students and investment of the staff resonates with her the most, says Fonseca. Growing up as a first-generation student who benefited from an employer’s philanthropic donation, she strives to give back by lending her voice to her demographic while helping them attain their financial goals.
“Investing your time and financial support yields generational change,” says Fonseca. “As a donor, this is phenomenally rewarding.”
To learn more about supporting EDGE, please contact email@example.com.