First-Gen Faculty & Staff

Brooke Pinkham

Brooke Pinham

Staff Director for the Center for Indian Law & Policy
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


Anthropology/American Indian Studies, University of Washington, 2001
Juris Doctorate, University of Washington, 2007


What does being first-gen mean to you?

Being a first generation college student means having to navigate a system that is foreign, that despite the un-chartered territory you trudge forward knowing you will make mistakes, all for the betterment of generations to come.
What challenges/barriers have you faced or overcome during college?

One challenge I've faced as a first-gen student was dealing with low self-esteem. I think because I had chosen a path that no one in my family had ever taken, I was never sure if I was doing it right. Sure, at times, I was certainly not doing it right, but I believe my lack of self-esteem, that I was never good enough to be at that University, I wasn't smart enough, etc; is what got in the way of my success. It wasn't until I surrounded myself with the right people that I began to believe I belonged, and that even though there weren't many others like me I could use the opportunity to educate others about who I was and the importance of having diverse students.
What resource(s) or support helped you to be successful?

A resource that helped me become successful was mentorship. I'm not necessarily talking about a formal mentor, but finding or discovering someone who has gone through the same experience as you. This might be other students, professors, elders, colleagues, etc. In order to find mentors you have to continue to put yourself out there, ask questions, show up for things, be engaged in your community. There are people out there who want to see you succeed, and those people are the greatest gift to your success.
Do you have an inspirational quote that helped guide you through college?

I don't know that I necessarily have quotes, but I often relied on my father's wisdom to get me through. When I started out as a freshmen at UW, I emailed him (when email was a new big thing), telling him about my struggles. I printed an email from him during my time in college and also saved a card he wrote for me after I graduated law school. I read those to this day, especially when I struggle with something. He said march to the beat of your own drum and something to the effect of I am proud that you have been so successful, without any push from me, and despite not always having the support... It was a sincere acknowledgement that, wow, you're right, I got through all of this on my own and I can continue to get through any obstacle.
What advice would you give to someone else who is also first-gen?

My advice for first-generation students is to keep moving forward, that any obstacle can be overcome. It could take awhile, a long while, but you will get what you want as long as you believe in yourself and rely on others to help you maneuver through the foreign spaces.