First-Gen Faculty & Staff

Gina Lopardo

Gina Lopardo

Director of Education Abroad
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


BA, Italian, University of Rhode Island (I also studied abroad in Italy during my UG studies.)
MS, College Student Personnel, University of Rhode Island
Ed.D, Educational Leadership, Seattle University, June 2018


What does being first-gen mean to you?

Being first-gen means being resilient, persistent, resourceful, and proud. It requires blazing your own trail and learning about resources available to you so that you can get the support you need. It also means learning to ask for help when you need it! It results in knowing that you are strong and capable and not just working on earning a degree but also finding your way and remembering the loved ones before you who did not have the ability to continue their formal academic education.
What challenges/barriers have you faced or overcome during college?

I did not have good guidance and didn't know where to look for it. If I'm honest, I don't even know if I knew I should be looking for it. I had to find my way through lots of trial and error. During my time in college I had tremendous responsibility for family members and managed the loss of several family members and two good friends. I also worked two or three jobs at a time while going to school. My family could not support me financially and I was a Pell Grant recipient. But through some miracle, I discovered I could study abroad, earn credit and financially make it work. This experience was the highlight of my college career and I could say my professional life today-I direct the Education Abroad Office at SU.
What resource(s) or support helped you to be successful?

If found support through the faculty of my major department and my work-study job in the Counseling Office. I sought counseling for myself. I developed a tight group of friends who are still a part of my life today. Most of them knew how to navigate the system better than me and shared that knowledge. I certainly would not have been able to earn my degree if not for the financial assistance I received through Federal and State funds. Finally, I relied on myself to be successful! I kept going and taking the necessary steps until I was able to walk across the stage and be handed my degree.

What advice would you give to someone else who is also first-gen?

Reach out to others and ask for what you need because the academic system can be complicated. It is also filled with great resources if you know where to look. Believe in yourself. The smallest steps still help get you to your goal. And when you feel like giving up - talk to someone and do things that help you believe in yourself again. Listening to music and walking the ocean shore (not necessarily at the same time!) are my go to inspirational muses.