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Inclusive Excellence Podcast: A first-gen experience through Cornell with Angela Herrera-Canfield

In this episode of the Inclusive Excellence Podcast, Erin Sember-Chase and Toral Patel sit down with Angela Herrera-Canfield '03, MPA '08, director of undergraduate admissions for the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell, to discuss her experience as a first-generation college student at the university and how it impacts the way she approaches her work.

“It’s been a wonderful evolution,” Herrera-Canfield said. “I feel very lucky and blessed in so many regards. I came to Cornell as a first-year student in 1999, all the way from El Paso, which is the farthest west city in Texas. I was a first-generation and low-income college student who had never visited Cornell until I stepped foot in orientation.”

Herrera-Canfield began working in residence life as an undergraduate student and then transitioned into admissions and multicultural recruitment at the university. By utilizing her own experiences and challenges as a first-generation college student, Herrera-Canfield found herself helping others navigate Cornell and higher education in nontraditional ways by making the process more accessible for students of all backgrounds.

“I created a video with a student who spoke Spanish to his mom,” Herrera-Canfield said. “He had to explain everything in Spanish to her about his Cornell experience, so we decided to record him talking to parents the way he talks to his mother. We then sent it out to students and said, ‘If you want to send this to your family because they don't understand what college is, feel free to share it with them. Maybe it can help change their view and understanding about going away to college.’”

Now as a director, Herrera-Canfield has not only strengthened her passion for working with students but has also embraced her role as a leader and recognizes the importance of positive mentorship in career development.

“I’ve had some really great mentors who helped me understand that I had a unique voice for Cornell,” Herrera-Canfield said. “Within a team, there are many unspoken histories and personal journeys that everyone has gone through. It’s so meaningful and powerful to give a new person in their first job the experience of making a change and even hearing their story and how they can incorporate it in their work. I really have enjoyed training and meeting new staff and getting them excited about higher education and their profession. It has been so powerful.”

Hear more about Angela Herrera-Canfield’s journey at Cornell and her advice for people leaders on how to create a positive environment for employees to grow and thrive in on Episode 71: From Staff to Student: A First-Gen Experience through Cornell. Visit to access the episode and transcript.

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