First-Generation Student PeggySue Imihy
The University of Minnesota is joining other colleges around the country November 8 to celebrate first-generation students, staff, and faculty. The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is proud to share the stories of some of our first-generation students.
PeggySue Imihy, MURP ‘18
Hometown: Columbia Heights, Minnesota
Bachelor's degree, American studies, University of Minnesota
My father immigrated to the Midwest in the mid-1980s from Morocco, and my mother grew up in rural Minnesota. Neither of them pursued college; my father because he immigrated here, and my mother because it wasn't something really encouraged for her. I'm an only child, so for me personally, I never had a really great example of collegiate success.
What does it mean for you to be able to attend college? It took me a long time to instill my own sense of value in higher education. I transferred from a four-year private school to community college in undergrad, and then even took some time off. For a long time I felt like getting a degree wasn't for me. Getting into the University of Minnesota in 2014 as a transfer student was a defining moment for me, because I felt like I was getting a second chance at higher education.
Walking across the stage at graduation, with my whole family there, was such a powerful feeling. Not just because I was the first of my family, but it made me feel like I could do anything. A lot of the anxieties I felt as an undergraduate—would I succeed, would I finish, where would I go next—were quelled just by receiving that diploma. I think for a lot of students, going to college is so normalized you don't think about what an achievement that is. As a first-generation college student I have a really different level of appreciation for my degree.
Why did you choose the Humphrey School? The Humphrey School was my first choice for my graduate education. Because of the support and encouragement I got as an undergraduate student here at the U, I knew I would get that same level of engagement. But I also chose it because of the reputation of the Humphrey School in the Twin Cities. Once you mention you're a Humphrey student, suddenly you meet Humphrey people everywhere. The alumni network and the Humphrey School really work to connect students to professionals and to provide opportunities to learn from those already in the field. As an urban and regional planning student, I have already had experience working with a community to plan for the future, and that hands-on opportunity isn't something you get in every school.