First-Gen at WSU: Sara Mata

Wichita State University is home to nearly 5,000 first-generation students, individuals whose caregivers weren't able to complete a college degree and who lack the firsthand experience to tackle college life. To help with their transition, Wichita State offers a number of resources to first-gen students to support them during their time in college, including F1RST GEN SHOCKERS.

Hear from Sara Mata, executive director of Hispanic Serving Institution and a current employee at Wichita State who went to college as a first-gen student, about the first-gen experience.


Arkansas City, Kansas

What was your major when attending college?

Sociology; juvenile corrections and treatment (undergrad)

What was the highest level degree you acquired in college?

Ph.D. in Social Foundations

What does being first gen mean to you?

I take a great deal of pride in being first gen, being the first to represent my family walking across the graduation stage. I remember the trials of ignorance, self-consciousness and being unaware of all the ambiguousness of attending university. My personal purpose is using the information and resources I have learned to support others on their journey.

How has your first gen experience inspired you?

As being part of the less than 1% of Latinas having a Ph.D., it has inspired me to make sure I help change this statistic. Serving as a mentor and supporter for students to believe and achieve is core to my work. I am fueled by the quote from George Bernard Shaw when he said, “Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

Why does advocating for first gen matter?

Giving back is fundamental to everything that is important to me.

What can faculty and staff do to help first-gen students?

It is important to get to know your students. Their pathways to university are lined with stories of persistence and ambitions. Listen to them and get to know what is contributing to their seeking degree attainment. Once we as faculty and staff can tap into the students’ core of what makes them who they are, it can enlighten them as a person beyond just being a student.

About Wichita State University

Wichita State University is Kansas' only urban public research university, enrolling more than 23,000 students between its main campus and WSU Tech, including students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Wichita State University provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the Wichita State University main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.

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