From an excerpt from the Duke Chronicle story “Professors Share Their Stories as Low-income, First-gen Students” 12/9/19 by William He:
As a low-income student from the small logging town of Packwood, Wash., Kenneth Brown attended the University of Puget Sound, a private institution in Tacoma, Wash., on financial aid.
“I think in the U.S., everybody thinks of themselves as being middle class,” Brown said, “so even though I was pretty low income, I thought of myself as middle class.”
That false reality was broken in Brown’s first-year English class about race, class and gender while reading an article describing summer experiences of lower-class, middle-class and upper-class students. While other students did not think much of the described middle-class summers, Brown thought them to be “like a dream.”
“That was the moment when I realized I wasn’t middle-class, and I was definitely out of my socioeconomic element in college,” Brown said.
Like many other low-income students, Brown worked various jobs to help fund his education. Part of his financial aid package was a work-study component, and Brown worked in the computer lab, as a tutor and as a residential assistant. Working in the computer lab, he had access to the fledgling World Wide Web and early exposure to new technology. Brown says that experience had an impact on his decision to study computation.
After getting his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, Brown worked as a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he provided research opportunities through work-study programs to low-income students. Having come to Duke recently, Brown says that he has not yet set up those opportunities for Duke students but is open to talking to low-income students seeking advice.