First Generation Faculty & Staff Project

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

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.


Belinda Ballew

Hometown: Strasburg, VA

Student Success Coordinator, Office of Student Success 238 I.G. Greer, 828-262-6987

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.

Michelle Bowers

Hometown: Crumpler, NC

Academic Advisor 101 D.D. Dougherty, 828-262-2167

Academic advising, orientation, First Year Seminar

Daniel Byrd

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Academic Advisor 102 Edwin Duncan Hall, 828-262-6557

I advise students in the College of Health Sciences, mainly Communication Sciences and Disorders as well as Nutrition.

Jennifer Coffey

Hometown: Blowing Rock, NC

Associate Director/School Certifying Official in the Office of Student Financial Aid 287 John E Thomas Hall, 828-262-2190

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

Gabby Dickey

Hometown: Fuquay-Varina, NC

Assistant Director for Fitness Student Recreation Center, 828-262-6310

I oversee, supervise, and plan AppState Fitness services.

Travis Erickson

Hometown: Waunakee, WI

Academic Advisor (CHS) 102C Edwin Duncan, 828-262-6530

Provide academic advising for students in CHS

Holly Hirst

Hometown: Shavertown, PA

Professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences 327 Walker Hall, 828-262-2869

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.

Mary Ann Hofmann

Hometown: Wappingers Falls, NY

Professor of Accounting 3134 Peacock Hall, 828-262-6228

I teach Accounting, primarily Income Taxation.

Alex Howard

Hometown: Clinton, NC

Director of Wellness and Prevention Services Miles Annas Student Services Building (1st Floor), 828-262-3148

I oversee activities regarding health promotion and behavior modification among Appalachian students.

Hometown: Sterling, CT

Librarian/Assistant Professor Belk Library, 828-262-2085

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

Hometown: None. I moved around too much across the United States and to Costa Rica.

Assistant Professor of History 220 Anne Belk Hall, 828-262-8476

I am an Assistant Professor of History and Director of the History/Social Studies Education Program; I also serve as a member of Appalachian's Hispanic-Latino Faculty & Staff Association and as the faculty advisor for the Hispanic Student Association (HSA). I am also part of the informal Digital Humanities workgroup on campus.

Jim Westerman

Hometown: Jacksonville, FL

James E. Holshouser Distinguished Professor in Ethics 4095 Peacock Hall, 828-262-7475

Director of Sustainable Business for the Walker College of Business, and also MGT Professor