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First-generation undergraduate student Morgan Dechene is studying public health and pre-occupational therapy at the University of Kentucky (UK). Passionate, driven, and determined, first-gen students simply “don’t give up."

Originally from Schererville, Ind., Morgan DeChene (’24) is a current student in the Bachelor of Public Health (BPH) program at the UK College of Public Health (CPH). After graduation, Morgan plans to pursue her doctorate in occupational therapy and become an occupational therapist — advancing on her passion and dream for helping more people. 

As a first-generation student, Morgan personally understands the challenges of managing a large workload inside and outside of the classroom.  

Morgan has her own non-profit, Purple People for Hope (@purple_people_for_hope on FB and IG), which raises awareness and educates the community about Epilepsy by bringing people and communities together in kindness. 

She participates in beauty pageants, volunteers at CASA of Lexington, and is incredibly involved on campus, including the Pre-Occupational Therapy Student Association, CHAARG: Changing Health, Attitudes, and Actions to Recreate Girls, Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network Club, and more. 

While balancing her academics, Morgan currently works as a Certified Nursing Assistant at the Kentucky Childrens Hospital and Morning Pointe in Danville, Kentucky. 

Morgan believes helping other students be resourceful and overcome shared challenges is important to having a great campus experience. Furthermore, she wants to make her family (and herself) proud.

Morgan shares her experience, challenges, advice, and special characteristics that first-generation students bring, along with her passion for public health and helping others. 

Who(m) are some of your biggest influencers? 

“My mom is my main reason for everything. Normally, I would say it's because she's the person who shaped me into the person I am today and is the strongest person I know and although that is true, today, I would say it's because she's a chain breaker. She has allowed me to have the opportunities I have and become a first-generation student and pursue every dream I've ever had. My mom has given up so much for me and she is the reason I will give my all in everything I do,” said Morgan. 

What motivated you to pursue a public health education?  

“I've always been passionate about helping others and I wanted an undergraduate degree that meant something to me as I am going to graduate school to get my doctorate in occupational therapy and I knew public health was the route for me. I am not only able to learn more about public health, but how I can use public health in my day to day to help others,” said Morgan. 

What do you enjoy most about being a student at CPH? 

“I enjoy the atmosphere most at the UK College of Public Health. Being in a smaller college I've gotten to know more people and attend so many events and it feels like a real community and place I'm happy to call my school. You never feel unwelcome anywhere you go,” said Morgan. 

What are some common challenges that first-generation students experience?

“Some common experiences that first-generation students experience is that we don’t know exactly how the college process works. Especially as someone who will be continuing my education to get my doctorate, it’s something my family has never done so they have trouble helping guide me in the right direction,” said Morgan.

What are some special traits or unique abilities that first-generation students bring?

“Special traits that first generation students bring is that we don’t give up. We are so incredibly passionate about getting our degrees and not only making our families proud but making ourselves proud. You don’t need a four-year degree to be successful, but as a first-generation student getting a degree, our passion, drive, and determination is like no other. We will keep pushing until we get there and never give up,” said Morgan.

What is your best advice for prospective first-generation students as they consider where to attend college?

“My advice for a first-generation student is don’t be scared. You are already doing what seemed impossible so keep going and do what makes you happy,” said Morgan.

What resources would you recommend for first-generation students?

“I recommend utilizing all the resources. As a first-generation student college is very confusing and you are limited to how much direction you have, so utilizing every resource given to you on campus makes it so much easier,” said Morgan.

What should we know or understand more about first-generation students?

“Be sensitive to first-generation students. We don’t know how to navigate college and it’s scary so having people who understand is important. Making resources that are easy to find and activities that we can participate in, so we don’t feel overwhelmed or alone is also important, and don’t get so stressed out,” said Morgan. 

To learn more about our commitment and resources for first-generation students, visit here. To learn more about our programs, people, and passion for public health, visit