First-Generation Scholars Program Success Stories

The value of a Fisher education is evident in personal stories of success told by students and alumni. Read what they have to say about the program and what they gained from their experience.

Andrew Cegielski ’22

Law Student at the University of Buffalo

Andrew Cegielski

Andrew Cegielski

Andrew Cegielski arrived at Fisher as a first-generation student with his sights set on becoming a teacher or a lawyer. He entered a dual degree program in legal studies and American studies to “cultivate both potential occupational pathways.” He believes the absence of a prescribed path offered advantages. He credits his success to professors and advisors, and he sees his involvement on Fisher’s Mock Trial team as pivotal to his decision to pursue law school. 

“I have a notable advantage attributed to the material I learned from the engaging professors, opportunities I had to act as an attorney, and real-life experiences I gained from my internships while at Fisher,” Cegielski explained. 

As a participant in the First-Generation Scholar Program, Cegielski also attributes his educational persistence to skills he developed while at Fisher, “The program gave me the tools to be a leader, the skills to build great relationships, and the support to navigate college!” 

The American studies and legal studies majors integrate research on critical topics related to society and justice, and Cegielski feels the interdisciplinary nature of the American studies program can strongly complement other majors. “Students considering a career connected to an American system—whether education, law, business, politics, public works, or service—have the opportunity to follow their passion while developing a well-rounded education,” he said.

Now, he wholeheartedly recommends the Fisher experience. “Ultimately, Fisher equips students with knowledge and experiences that are undeniably beneficial for graduate school and a future career.”

Trish Dillenbeck ’06

Higher Education Professional

Trish Dillenbeck

Trish Dillenbeck

Coming from a small hometown, Trish Dillenbeck knew she wanted a campus that valued community and connection. After visiting Fisher and learning about the First-Generation Scholarship, she knew it was her new home. Throughout her time at Fisher, the program helped her feel connected to her fellow first-gens, fostering a sense of community she longed for. 

She attributes her success during her time at Fisher to her professors who challenged and mentored her.

The First-Generation Scholars Program was the catalyst for Dillenbeck’s career in higher education. “The strong focus on leadership development had the greatest impact on my career, as I learned not only how to strengthen my own personal skills, but how to best understand and work with others who have different skills. The work within the program cemented my commitment to scholarship, service, equity, and leadership development, which have been the pillars of my career ever since.” 

She encourages first-generation students to ask for help, “I’d say it’s OK not to have all the answers, and it’s OK to reach out for support. Reach out to the supports in place; they really are there to help.”

Alyssa Gara ’22

Banking Services Line Manager

Alyssa Gara

Alyssa Gara

Alyssa Gara has carried many lessons from her time at Fisher as a First-Generation Scholar to her role at M&T Bank. She attributes her success to the support network she received from campus and the First-Generation Scholars Program. “The program provided my first network on campus, helped me acclimate to the community, and taught me a lot about myself that directly led to my growth while I was at Fisher.”

Gara credits the First-Generation Scholars Program for her current success in her professional career. “My college education was integral to my career development and success. Without the professional skills I gained in the classroom and the leadership experience I was able to gain through the program and other extracurricular activities, there is no way I would have been able to progress as fast at my company and feel comfortable managing a team at only 24 years old.” 

She encourages first-generation students to get involved on campus, “Don't discount the value of being involved outside of the classroom. Some of the most valuable lessons and skills that I learned in college came from clubs and organizations I participated in. These organizations allow you to practice skills in a controlled manner that will come in handy in life after college. Most importantly, have fun! College goes by so fast so appreciate the opportunities you have even during stressful times.”