Monday, January 21, 2013

Swarthmore president featured in NYT as former "farm girl"

The New York Times just ran this little profile feature about Rebecca Chopp, president of Swarthmore College, under the headline "From Farm Girl to College President."  It's one of those "rags to riches" tales--well, not so much "rags" as bumpkin farm girl and not so much "riches" as ivory tower success.  But I guess that is the point:  just as we see a sharp divide between "rags" and "riches," so we see a chasm between "farm girl"and "intellectual."  In response to the reporter's query about being the first in her family to go to college, Chopp says:
My father had a farm in Kansas and worked in construction. My mother taught me to read, but my parents didn’t think that girls should go to college. 
I ended up at a big state university, the kind with 600 kids in the Chemistry 101 class, and I was a student who had had no pre-college preparation. In high school, I studied home economics and sewing. I dropped out my first year. 
I later went to a small liberal arts college, thanks to financial aid and working several part-time jobs.
The journalist notes that Chopp, who has also served as president of Colgate University and Dean of the Yale Divinity School, holds "events" for first-generation college students.  This suggests she has a special understanding of the barriers--emotional, economic, and otherwise--that these students face--whether or not they grew up on farms.   

1 comment:

Miranda Dugan said...

The types of challenges described here are so true! I worked at UC Davis Orientation for three years as an undergraduate, and we always got a special training on first generation college students. One of the best things about Davis is that we have so many resources to help with almost any challenges new students face. They're super helpful, you know, if you can actually manage to find any of them on our gigantic campus...