The newly launched First Generation Triumph Podcast’s purpose is to elevate the voices of first-generation students at Illinois State University by offering them a space to share their lived experiences.

“The goal is to focus on the social and cultural capital first-generation students bring to the college experience, which provides an asset-based approach to success,” said podcast host Makiah Watson, a human development and family sciences major. “We come with capital, we come with stories, we come with great tenacity and resilience.”

Watson is a first-generation student from Chicago who found community at Illinois State through University College’s TRIO/Student Support Services, which recognizes the wealth that first-generation students bring to the campus community and accompanies them as they use their social and cultural capital to achieve optimal personal and academic success. The U.S Department of Education identifies first-generation students as those whose parents did not obtain a four-year college degree.

The podcast was developed by Dr. Shatoya Black, assistant director in University College, and created as a platform for students to lead the charge in shifting mindsets related to first-generation students. Watson, an intern at TRIO, took the initiative to become host. From the beginning, Watson’s goal was to give listeners a chance to learn about the first-generation experience directly from first-generation students.

“There are a lot of assumptions made about first-generation students that aren’t coming from us when it comes to obstacles, triumphs, and everything in between,” Watson said. “I hope the podcast can shine a light on the social and cultural capital we bring and give people the opportunity to learn, be advocates, and help create brave spaces.”

The podcast launched September 7 in the Bone Student Center with a live recording of the first episode, which featured a panel discussion facilitated by Watson with first-generation students Bryanna Barker and Gaurav Umap, a graduate assistant at TRIO, and the following first-generation alumni: TRIO advisor Terry Jackson ’13, M.S. ’20, who is also a current doctoral student; Mallory Jallas, student success librarian at Milner Library; and TRIO advisor Phoebe McLean ’20. The group talked about the challenges first-generation students face and how they overcome them.

Three episodes of the podcast have been produced so far. Episode two featured first-generation students who are also mothers while episode three was about international first-generation students. All episodes stream live and are recorded monthly via Instagram and Facebook.

Watson offered this advice to fellow first-generation students as they go on their Redbird journey.

“Remember your ‘why’ and remember your passion,” Watson said. “There are some experiences that are going to be really hard and not a lot of fun. But the reason why you stepped foot on this campus is the reason you should keep going. Your goals are more than enough to keep pushing forward.”

Any first-generation student or alum can be considered as a guest for future episodes by filling out an online form or by emailing