PANEL & ROUNDTABLE: First Generation Faculty Forum: Supporting First Generation Faculty and Students (40 mins)


  • Melissa Broeckleman-Post George Mason University
  • Shannon Davis George Mason University
  • Heidi Lawrence George Mason University
  • Millie Rivera George Mason University
  • Courtney Adams Wooten George Mason University
  • Laurence Bray George Mason University
  • Charlotte Gill George Mason University



Nearly 40% of Mason students are first generation college students. This group faces a unique set of challenges, particularly around understanding the implicit norms and expectations on our campus and academia generally. This panel proposes to discuss the unique concerns and experiences of first generation faculty members at Mason and how those impact teaching, mentoring, and advising practices at Mason. Each panelist is a member of Mason’s faculty who was once a first-generation college student who successfully navigated academic institutions and a pathway to the professoriate. By sharing experiences, insights, and current research on strategies that faculty can use to support students and support one another, this panel will also work toward solutions that help improve student access as well as faculty wellness, recruitment, and retention across the University. Some of the questions we will address in our discussion include the following: · What is the current size and scope of faculty who were first generation college students at George Mason? How many faculty members identify as fitting this criteria? What disciplines/departments are they in? What positions do they occupy (assistant/associate/full prof; concurrent admin roles; term)? · Are there trends across their educational experiences that they feel positively impacted their choice to pursue a faculty position? To work at George Mason specifically? · Are there trends across their work and professional practices--in the kinds of labor practices they report in their departments; their teaching, advising, and mentoring practices; or in their research or disciplinary involvement? · Are there professional resources that leadership at George Mason can provide first generation faculty and students to help facilitate and sustain success? · How can we help first generation students understand different ideas about what “work” looks like and the different ways to be transparent about different pathways for structuring work? · How can we help first generation students work recognize that internalized notions of what “success” is and the ways that those ideas can both enable us to find creative solutions and constrain options or even be paralyzed by not knowing? · How does gender impact the expectations that first generation students’ families have and the support that they receive for moving forward on an academic pathway?

Author Biographies

Melissa Broeckleman-Post, George Mason University

Melissa A. Broeckelman-Post (Ph.D., Ohio University, 2009) is the Introductory Communication Course Director and an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and a Senior Scholar in the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University.  She is responsible for planning, supervising, assessing, and improving the communication courses that meet the general education requirement at GMU.  Each year, she is responsible for recruiting, training, and supervising a staff of 50-60 instructors who teach 3700-4000 undergraduate students per year in these courses.  In 2016, her program was the recipient of the NCA Basic Course Division Program of Excellence Award, which recognizes introductory communication course programs that can serve as best practice models for programs across the country.  In 2015, she was the recipient of the NCA Basic Course Division Textbook of Distinction Award for the textbook that she extensively adapted to meet the specific needs to GMU’s students, instructors, and program.  Dr. Broeckelman-Post also served as the co-chair of the Social Science Research Council’s Measuring College Learning Project Panel on Public Speaking and was a co-recipient of a National Communication Association Advancing the Discipline Grant for A National-Level Assessment of Core Competencies in the Basic Communication Course.   

Shannon Davis, George Mason University

****TEA 2013 Winner****

Dr. Davis received her BA in Sociology in 1997 with distinction as an Undergraduate Research Scholar from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.  She received her Ph.D. in Sociology in 2004 from North Carolina State University.  She also spent two years as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Carolina Population Center

Her research has two foci.  One vein of her work focuses on the creation of families and the negotiation of family life.  Specifically, she is interested in how family members negotiate the intersection of paid and unpaid work in their daily lives, how gender inequality is reproduced in families, and on the construction and maintenance of beliefs about gender, or gender ideologies. She is also interested in how gender ideologies inform decisions about education, work, and relationships. Other recent research has examined the processes through which inequality is reproduced or undermined in higher education with an eye toward understanding the role that undergraduate research can play in changing the future of the professoriate. She was the recipient of a 2012 OSCAR Mentor Award for her mentorship of undergraduate scholars, a 2013 Teaching Excellence Award, and a 2019 OSCAR Mentoring Excellence Award for Sustaining Mentorship. In 2018, she received the Kathleen S. Lowney Mentoring Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems. She currently serves as Chair of the Faculty Senate (2020-21).

Heidi Lawrence, George Mason University

Heidi Y. Lawrence teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on professional writing and rhetoric. Her research focuses on the rhetorics of medical and scientific controversies, specifically public debates about vaccinations, campus sexual assault, and opioids. She studies the role that professional communication produced by physicians, health officials, and researchers plays in shaping public debate and parental beliefs about vaccines.

Her work has appeared in the journal Rhetoric of Health and Medicine, Critical Public Health, Journal of the Medical Humanities, the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, and the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. Her book on vaccine controversy, Vaccine Rhetorics, will be available from The Ohio State University Press in Spring 2020.

She teaches courses in proposal writing, research methods, technical and professional writing. She is also the faculty advisor for the George Mason Student Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC).

Millie Rivera, George Mason University

Dr. Milagros (Millie) Rivera is an accomplished and results-driven academic with exceptional teaching and facilitating skills and proven experience developing educational/training programs.

She has an extensive international network and experience working with and managing culturally diverse teams, supervising and mentoring young academics as well as undergraduate and graduate students. She also has experience supporting and mentoring cultural students’ groups.

Dr. Rivera is currently the Director of Faculty Diversity, Inclusion and Well-Being at George Mason University, where she creates and participates in collaborative and interdisciplinary alliances around diversity, inclusion, and well-being initiatives; develops and assesses new strategies and structures for recruitment and retention of diverse faculty; develops and shares resources to improve campus climate for existing faculty, including faculty from underrepresented groups; cultivates mentoring, growth opportunities, and well-being initiatives that sustain Mason’s goals of retaining a diverse faculty; and creates, implements, and assesses—in collaboration with campus stakeholders—new initiatives regarding inclusion, equity, and well-being.

She also works with the Office of the Provost and other stakeholders to identify and address barriers for women and underrepresented faculty.

Courtney Adams Wooten, George Mason University

Courtney Adams Wooten began her career at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX, serving as the writing program administrator there for four years before joining GMU as the Director of Composition. She currently serves on the Council of Writing Program Administrators' Executive Board, and she is the book review editor for WPA: Writing Program Administration. She co-edited the collections WPAs in Transition and The Things We Carry: Strategies for Recognizing and Negotiating Emotional Labor in Writing Program Administration, and she has published in Composition Studies, WPA, Peitho, and Harlot as well as several edited collections. 

Laurence Bray, George Mason University

Computational neuroscience is a growing field of research as our technological ability attempts to approach the complexity of the human nervous system. In order to construct real-time intelligent systems, researchers must use high-performance computing, experimental data recording and complex brain modeling to develop robotic functions that mimic the way humans think. The focus of Laurence Bray’s recent research, “Large-Scale Biologically Realistic Models of Brain Dynamics Applied to Real-Time Intelligent Robotic Systems”, involves getting clear understanding of physiological responses to “trust” scenarios and modeling them in artificial intelligence. The United States Office of Naval Research is funding a grant to Bray’s lab for the purpose of exploring better decision-making capabilities of artificial intelligence. The project proposes the first biologically realistic model for trust based in both software and hardware modeling. Bray coaches Mason seniors to push the limits of technology in a variety of design project-based courses for the biomedical engineering program.


Charlotte Gill, George Mason University

Dr. Charlotte Gill is an Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University. She received her PhD in Criminology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010. Her primary research interests are community- and place-based crime prevention approaches, particularly with juveniles and youth; community policing; program evaluation; and research synthesis. Dr. Gill has fifteen years of experience in applied experimental and quasi-experimental research and is currently partnering with several police departments and community groups around the United States to develop and test community-led approaches to place-based prevention and improve police responses to people with mental health issues. Dr. Gill also serves as a member of the Campbell Collaboration Crime and Justice Group steering committee. She is a 2017-19 Andrew Carnegie Fellow and has received several awards and honors, including the 2018 Mentoring Excellence award from Mason OSCAR and the 2019 SCHEV Outstanding Faculty - Rising Star award. 






TUESDAY 11:00am-11:40am