First Generation Faculty & Staff

Coming to college and earning a degree is challenging for every student. This can be especially true for students who do not have a parent who has been through the process and can pass along important "college knowledge." Tasks as common as when and how to apply for financial aid, how to organize and plan out class assignments, where to go and how to ask for help, and how to approach a professor can be overwhelming.

At Appalachian, we know that many of our students come from homes in which neither parent earned a four-year degree. We also know that these students, our first generation college students, are just as bright and capable as anyone, and we want to help them make their way successfully to graduation.

The First Generation Faculty and Staff Project showcases Appalachian's many faculty and staff members who were themselves first generation college students as undergrads. These men and women know what it is like to navigate in unfamiliar terrain and are able to understand what our students may be experiencing. These are their stories. We hope you will read them, take inspiration from them, and, if you are a first generation college student, let them serve as a reminder that you can do this. Please do not hesitate to reach out to these faculty and staff members. Everyone who has shared a story here will be glad to speak with you and help you along your unique journey.


Dr. Alex Howard
Dr. Greg Lester
Mrs. Beth Marsh
Mrs. Cathia Silver

Alex Howard

Alex HowardHometown: Clinton, NC

Director of Wellness and Prevention Services
Miles Annas Student Services Building (1st Floor) 

Jennifer Natale

Jennifer NataleHometown: Sterling, CT

Librarian/Assistant Professor

I am a Librarian working with students in Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, Counseling, First-Year Seminar, and Athletics.

Jennifer Coffey

Jennifer CoffeyHometown: Blowing Rock, NC

Associate Director/School Certifying Official
Office of Student Financial Aid
287 John E Thomas Hall

First and foremost, I am responsible for assisting Appalachian's Military Affiliated Students with their VA Education Benefits.

Belinda Ballew

Belinda BallewHometown: Strasburg, VA

Student Success Coordinator
Office of Student Success
238 I.G. Greer

I am in charge of the Mapworks early alert system and assist with Academic Progress Reports, Early Attendance Alerts, Academic Success Workshops, Academic Coaching and other Office of Student Success initiatives.

Daniel Byrd

Daniel ByrdHometown: Atlanta, GA

Academic Advisor
102 Edwin Duncan Hall

What I do at Appalachian State: I advise students in the College of Health Sciences, mainly Communication Sciences and Disorders as well as Nutrition

Travis Erickson

Travis EricksonHometown: Waunakee, WI

Academic Advisor (CHS)
102C Edwin Duncan

What I do at Appalachian State: Provide academic advising for students in CHS


Jim Westerman

Jim WestermanHometown: Jacksonville, FL

James E. Holshouser Distinguished Professor in Ethics
4095 Peacock Hall

What I do at Appalachian State: Director of Sustainable Business for the Walker College of Business, and also MGT Professor

Gabby Dickey

Gabby DickeyHometown: Fuquay-Varina, NC

Assistant Director for Fitness
Student Recreation Center

"I oversee, supervise, and plan AppState Fitness services."

Aleia White

Aleia WhiteHometown: Sidney, KY

Residence Life Coordinator
Belk Residence Hall, Room 120

I oversee and assist in the management of four residence halls on the stadium side of campus; Belk, Frank, Newland, and Justice.

Matt Zalman

Matt ZalmanHometown: Hastings, NE

Coordinator for University Housing
Gardner 104

What I do at Appalachian State: I work with students in Housing by providing a safe, clean, and educative atmosphere.

Holly Hirst

Holly HirstHometown: Shavertown, PA

Professor Dept. of Mathematical Sciences
327 Walker Hall 

What I do at Appalachian State: I am a Professor of Mathematics and Co-Director of the Master's Program in Mathematics; I have also been Assistant Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and Associate Dean in the School of Graduate Studies.

Read more

Michelle Bowers

Michelle BowersHometown: Crumpler, NC

Academic Advisor
101 D.D. Dougherty

What I do at Appalachian State: Academic advising, orientation, First Year Seminar

Mary Ann Hoffman

Mary Ann HoffmanHometown: Wappingers Falls, NY

Professor of Accounting
3134 Peacock Hall

I teach Accounting, primarily Income Taxation.

Share Your Story

If you are a Faculty or Staff member who was a first generation college student and would like to share your story, please begin by completing the First Generation Faculty and Staff webform.