Vilna Bashi Treitler

What advice would you give first-generation college students?

Go all-in. Don’t waste your money or time if you’re going to try college, give it your very best effort. Read the assigned material. Reading in the way that helps you succeed in college gets easier after a year or two of practice, but it never gets easier if you don’t work at it. And take advantage of your professors’ office hours. It seems scary at first, but that’s exactly where and how you get help. And they’re sitting there, just waiting for you. Enjoy the exploration, there will likely not be any other time in life where you’ll have the freedom to just explore knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

How did you come to go to college?

I was driven to get out of my household. I somehow knew that my new life was at the end of the tunnel called college. The way that food, clothing, shelter happen because one has a job — that’s how I thought about a better life and college. One cannot happen without the other, in the way I looked at things then. And, it turns out, I was right. It did lead me to a much better life.

Vilna Bashi Treitler
Professor, Department of Black Studies
UC Santa Barbara