Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Joseph Zulick (2016)

My First Generation Story

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I had limited exposure to peers who were taught to “remain on the right path.” The majority of my friends came from households of blue-collar, paycheck-to-paycheck folks. Some families remained adamant about academics, and others raised their children to do what they could to pitch-in around the house. I was always interested in sports as a child, but the unorthodox dynamic of my household made it difficult to pursue my interests. My parents were divorced, didn’t make loads of money like my friends’ parents did, never really got along well enough to unify together as one, and never conveyed the importance of a great education. Instead, they insisted that I learn to help out with groceries and bills. Like most normal students in high school, I dreamt one day of becoming a college graduate: a quintessential productive member of society, who would suffer from no from financial problems—unlike some of my family members.

I began to realize that I was responsible for my own academic prosperity and success. I planned to pursue my associate degree from a local community college, and then transfer to Indiana University of Pennsylvania to earn my bachelor’s degree. Knowing this was my plan, during the beginning of my senior year of high school, I began to crave “healthier,” more focused people to surround myself with; people who challenged me, supported me, and had aspirations similar to mine.

As my senior year dwindled down, many of my peers were getting accepted into expensive division 1 universities. I, on the other hand, was working with the limited resources I had to fund education after high school. During my final weeks of high school, I received a healthy amount of federal and state financial aid, and was all set to move to another county to attend the local community college. During my two years there, I learned a lot. I loved being exposed to other motivated, ambitious students who had big dreams and big shoes to fill, and couldn’t wait to spend some time at a relatively large university.

After graduating from the community college, I enrolled in Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Communications Media and Psychology track. One of my first impressions of IUP was how diverse and motivated the students were, and how many opportunities IUP offered. During my first month there, I met some of my best friends, and learned of many areas of study that I could pursue. I had no idea how a state-funded university worked, and was surprised to discover how many organizations, clubs, associations and resources were available to students.

This summer, I had the honor of interning at AASCU in their communications division. In this role I was responsible for finding articles that were used to update AASCU’s homepage; curating a photo library of AASCU member institution photos and logos; editing submissions for AASCU’s First Generation Voices initiative; and writing press releases. I also shadowed my coworkers and learned some of the software systems they use, including the Adobe Creative Suite. I recognize that not everyone has access to such software, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to use it. I’m also thankful for the AASCU staff, particularly the communications team—they were helpful, kind, and always there for me when I had a question.

As I complete my undergraduate education, I am so grateful for my time and what I learned at IUP. I look forward to a career in public relations and advertising, and with the skills, opportunities and support given to me by IUP, I know I’m ready to take on the real world.

About the Student

Joe Zulick Revised2

Joe Zulick is a first generation student at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he is graduating this August with a bachelor's degree in communications media and psychology.

Student Stats

Name: Joseph Zulick (2016)
Age: 24
Year in School: Senior
Major: Communications Media and Psychology
Favorite Course: Project Management & Crisis Communications
Dream Job: Sports Marketing and Branding

About the School


IUP combines the academic opportunities of a large university with the highly personalized and intimate learning-centered environment of a small college.  

Almost 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in our accredited and nationally recognized programs, enjoying traditional and nontraditional classroom experiences, engaging in research and service activities with their faculty mentors, becoming lifelong learners, preparing for rewarding careers and productive lives, and developing leadership skills for effective citizenship.



  • Kellee Edmonds
    Vice President of Communications and Public Relations
    (202) 478-4662