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Arts and Sciences | First Generation | Lion VoicesMarch 01, 2024

First-Generation Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Janine Chitty

Written By: First-Generation Committee

The First-Generation Faculty Spotlight for February 2024 highlights the educational journey of Dr. Janine Chitty, professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. In her role, she teaches composition, literature, and English undergraduate courses, as well as graduate courses in the UAFS Master of Education program.

Chitty’s journey to higher education didn’t take a traditional route. As a newlywed right out of high school, she didn’t realize the importance of earning a degree until several years later.

“Because I opted to marry instead of going to college straight from high school, I forfeited a full scholarship to the University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL). I quickly learned the value of that decision as I began figuring out how to pay for college,” Chitty recalled.

Aside from her husband, Chitty “navigated uncharted waters” as the first in her family to attend college. Chitty found work through part-time jobs and campus work-study programs to finance her degree. During her time at UMSL, Chitty was also eligible for PELL grants to offset the cost of tuition.

Beginning her college journey as a non-traditional and first-generation student, Chitty needed to learn program requirements or other rigors to earn a degree. As Chitty faced these challenges, she expected to “figure it out” on her own. However, she had a strong support system in her husband, who had already been through the process.

“When I was ready to walk away from earning a degree, he was the one who encouraged me to continue. He was the one to help me figure it out,” Chitty said.

Having walked a similar path to many UAFS first-generation and non-traditional students, Chitty empathizes with students who face challenges. Her history and experience have impacted her work with UAFS students.

“I try to anticipate their needs, questions, and concerns and support them in finding the resources they need to be successful,” she explained. “I have first-hand knowledge and experience of what it was like to be a non-traditional first-generation student and not be sure that anything I was doing was right. I try to be that supporter and advocate for our students.”

Drawing from her experience as a student and educator, Chitty encourages all first-generation students not to be afraid to reach out for help and ask questions.

“We (faculty and staff) are here to support our students on their journey to a successful graduation,” Chitty said with a smile.

In 2022, Chitty was awarded the Lucille Speakman Master Teacher Award at UAFS for her more than two decades of teaching and mentoring UAFS students and “impeccable design in her courses and strong work ethic and expertise that makes her an exemplary professor and colleague.” In 2023, she was spotlighted as the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Advisor.

  • Tags:
  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • Faculty
  • English
  • Non-traditional
  • First Generation

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