The Firsts community includes over 50 faculty and staff members that welcome the opportunity to connect with you. Reach out and learn more about their own experience and how they navigate being a First. View some profiles below.
In addition to this community, you will meet a number of faculty and staff at Williams who work collaboratively to enrich your experience at Williams. Remember you are not alone in this journey!
Professor of Computer Science
I’m a first generation college graduate from Baltimore, MD. I graduated from Gettysburg College with a double major in Math and Computer Science, and got a PhD in Computer Science from UC San Diego. I’ve been a professor of Computer Science at Williams since 2007. I live in Williamstown with my husband, 2 kids, and 2 dogs. My favorite things are coffee, dogs, and skiing!
Director of Student Financial Services
I’m a first generation college graduate from Charleston, Mississippi. I graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelors of Science in Educational Psychology and got a Masters Degree in Higher Education from the University of South Carolina. I’ve been at Williams since 2018 and I have held similar positions at three other colleges before arriving at Williams. I live in Williamstown with my husband Ed (who works in Admission at Williams) and my son Ward (13). Most of my free time is spent on an athletic field/court cheering on my son or the Ephs!
My message to first generation college students is two fold:
- You belong here! We believe you do and we are happy to remind you of that whenever you need it!
- You will always be a First. First in college, first in graduate school, maybe first to buy a house or a car…your identity as a first will always be with you!
Zorelly Cepeda Derieux ‘14
Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
I was born and raised in San Juan, PR, and moved to the United States to attend Williams College, receiving a B.A. in History in 2014. I worked in arts organizations in the Berkshires for 8 years and have been in the role of Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Williams since June 2021. I live in North Adams with my husband and our dog. My favorite things are singing, books, and my nieces! Arriving at Williams with all the shocks (i.e. cultural, academic, environmental, etc), I wish I could have found more support – so now that I am here, I want to be a resource and support for all Firsts when needed (and when you think you don’t need it!).
Victor Cazares, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
I am a first generation college graduate, and a first generation Mexican-American. My family moved back and forth from the U.S. and Mexico until I entered college. I began my academic career at Fullerton Community College before transferring to California State University, Los Angeles, where I earned my B.A. degree in Psychology. During college I fell in love with the scientific process and with basic questions about what determines the way people behave. My involvement in research as an undergraduate set me on a career path to becoming a neuroscientist. I got my Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Michigan (Go blue!) and in addition to teaching I run a research lab at Williams studying brain processes that confer risk for psychiatric phenotypes. For fun, I love to go on hikes with my dog Valentina (named after the hot sauce) and I also love bicycling (sadly Valentina doesn’t know how to ride a bicycle).
Paula Consolini, she/her
Adam Falk Director of the Center for Learning in Action
I’m a first-generation college graduate who grew up in a large 3-generation Italian-American household in Southington, Connecticut. I earned my B.A. in Government and Law at Lafayette College and my Political Science Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1992. After teaching at Union College in Schenectady, I began working at Williams in 2002 as the Coordinator of Experiential Education. I currently lead the Center for Learning in Action (CLiA). I live in Williamstown with my husband, who teaches at Williams, and our large ginger cat. Our daughter, a Williams ’18 alum, lives in nearby Amherst. In addition to my work helping students and faculty engage in community work, I spend most of my spare time working with others on progressive political causes. I’m pleased to be able to support first-gen students in any way I can and encourage them to reach out to me and tap the many resources available across Williams.
Brahim El Guabli, Ph.D. (he, him, his)
Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies
Program in Comparative Literature
Program in Jewish Studies
My name is Brahim El Guabli, and I am a first gen graduate and indigenous scholar from Morocco. My parents were illiterate, but they always encouraged me to continue my studies. I hold a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and have been teaching at Williams College since 2018. My wife, our two sons, our cat (Hazel), and I live in Williamstown. I enjoy cooking Moroccan food, reading exciting literature, and having conversations with people. First gen students are most welcome to shoot me an email to have coffee or share a meal.
Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Professor of Chemistry
I grew up in Germany and Singapore in a multicultural household. After studying chemistry at the University of Durham, U.K. I moved to the United States for graduate school, celebrating my Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University oh so many years ago. After stints as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and as a scientist at a materials research start-up company in Silicon Valley, I came to Williamstown in 2004, joining the chemistry department in 2007. I am currently serving as Associate Dean of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and director our Summer Science Program for 4 years. Please reach out if I or our office can be a resource. I love talking about good food, about what motivates us and what sometimes gets in the way, exploring career paths that may not be the norm, and generally hearing your stories – and to affirm that you belong.
Cynthia Holland, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas and graduated from the Honors College at Henderson State University, a public liberal arts college in Arkansas, with a Biology degree and Chemistry minor. During my summer research experiences through National Science Foundation-funded programs, I fell in love with research and plant biology. I pursued a Ph.D. in Plant and Microbial Biosciences at Washington University in St. Louis, where I found my passion for studying plant metabolism. I was a postdoc at the Boyce Thompson Institute in Ithaca, NY before starting at Williams in January of 2020. Outside of teaching and research, I enjoy going to classical music concerts, baking, playing fetch with my cat, and watching Formula 1 races. I encourage Firsts to reach out to your professors and get to know them in office hours or over a coffee or meal!
“I Identify as an Afro-Latina whose parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic. Being the first Dominican/American within my family came with a lot of first time experiences such as being a first generation college student and now an emerging entrepreneur within my family. Aside from being a pioneer in navigating Academic/Business ventures, I place a huge emphasis on wellness ( I am a person before being a professional), specifically on mental health where I continue to break stigmas and barriers around this topic. Currently you can find me at Mears House, my role at Williams College is Associate Director, Director of Inclusive Career Exploration for Careers with Social Impact.”
Barron Koralesky (he)
Chief Information Officer
Office for Information Technology
I’m a first-generation college graduate from a small, rural town in Minnesota. I was a physics major at Carleton College, then went to graduate school in astrophysics at the University of Minnesota. In 2000, I started working in higher education information technology and have been doing so ever since. I came to Williams in 2015 and love my work and the community here. For fun, my wife and I love to hike in this beautiful area.
Welcome to Williams, fellow Firsts! You belong here and we all are here to support you.
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
I grew up in Manville, Rhode Island, and went to Brown University, where my mom was a secretary. After following the pre-med track I discovered environmental studies in my senior year and fell in love with it! Brown wasn’t need blind when I was an undergraduate, and it was rough to be one of the only financial aid and first-gen students. I wish somebody had taught me about the tacit knowledge and norms of college culture, and now, as a faculty member, I want to be a resource and source of support for all Firsts. After graduation I lived in Norwich, England, while working for a Brown professor’s lab — my first time out of the US and Canada. From there I went to Cornell University for a Ph.D. in environmental studies.
Chair and Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies
I grew up in a poor rural town in Illinois and was the first in my family to graduate college. I attended my local state university on a Pell Grant and then worked in educational policy before eventually going to graduate programs at the University of Chicago and Northwestern. Now I’m an ethnographer who researches sex work, organizing alongside sex worker leaders in Brazil and elsewhere. I encourage all first gen students to be totally unashamed to use the resources at Williams – be they faculty office hours, tutors, the writing center or other programs. First gen students sometimes think there is a stigma about this, but you are actually entitled to them the same as everyone and very welcome!
Class of 2012 Professor of Economics
I am a first generation college graduate from Sandy, Utah (on the suburban-rural fringe of Salt Lake City). I attended the University of Utah majoring in economics, and went to Washington University in St. Louis for my PhD. I am interested in economic policy and urban growth, in part because I saw urban sprawl sweep out and engulf the small community where I grew up. Here at Williams I have continued this interest, and also worked to understand how art markets work and how cultural organizations affect urban vitality. One of the things I enjoy about Williams is interacting with students and colleagues from diverse backgrounds. I always learn from these interactions, and any day you can learn something new is a good day! Please feel free to reach out to me to share your experiences and ask questions.
W. Anthony Sheppard
Marylin & Arthur Levitt Professor of Music
I’m a first-generation college graduate from St. Petersburg, FL. I graduated from Amherst College with a double major in Music and English and earned a PhD in Music from Princeton University. I’ve been a professor of Music at Williams since 1996 and I live in Pownal, VT with my wife, a Professor in the Econ department. My favorite things to do, other than teach Williams students and complete research projects, are to travel and read. Even though it was long ago at this point, I still remember the excitement and challenges of being a first gen student and I’m happy to chat with any first gens at Williams about navigating the college experience.
Edgar Sandoval (he/they)
Assistant Professor of Latina/o Studies
I am a first-generation college graduate from Waukegan, Illinois. I grew up in the Chicagoland area and recently lived in Seattle. I received my A.B. in Geography and Government at Dartmouth College, and my M.A. and Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Washington. Since 2020, I have been part of the Latina/o Studies program at Williams. I enjoy watching reality television, going on walks with my puppy, and traveling with friends and my partner. I look forward to connecting with first-gen students.
Phi Hong Su (she/her)
Assistant Professor of Sociology
I’m a first-gen college graduate from Ho Chi Minh City. I grew up in a Los Angeles suburb—626 forever—and have also called Abu Dhabi and Berlin home. I’m the proud product of a California public education, having received my B.A. in Sociology at Cal Poly Pomona and PhD from UCLA. Since 2021, I’ve been part of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Williams. My favorite things are playing sports poorly; learning but never quite mastering languages; and cooking, eating, and traveling with my partner and the cherished community we’re building here. I encourage all first-gen students and colleagues to unabashedly ask for the resources we need to thrive.