First-Gen Faculty & Staff

David Madsen

Associate Professor, History
Associate Appointment, Medieval Studies
Pronouns: He/Him


BA in Classics, Seattle University, 1969

MA, University of Washington, 1974

PhD, University of Washington, 1981


What does being first-gen mean to you?

To be honest, I never thought of myself as being a trailblazer. Though neither of my parents completed college, my brother, sisters and I always knew that my parents had high expectations for our education and educational achievement. Both were very supportive in every sense except financial and were very, very proud when I walked into Mercer Arena (on the grounds of the Seattle Center) in June of 1969.

What challenges/barriers have you faced or overcome during college?

Probably the major challenge was financial. With six younger sisters and brother my folks just could not afford to offer anything in financial support. So after one year in Campion, I had to accept the fact that I couldn't afford to live on campus and so had to adjust to living with my Grandmother in Ballard and commuting to school. On the other hand, it was while living there that I met my wife.

What resource(s) or support helped you to be successful?

I had the good fortune to get a union-wages job in a paper mill during my summer vacations; that helped immensely to shoulder the costs of my education. Scholarship from SU and from that paper mill also were a blessing.

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

When you get to college, what you achieve will be on you. Work hard. When you don't know how things work, ask questions; ask for help as soon as you need it. Take advantage of the fact that your faculty are every bit as committed to your success as you are