Branden standing at a table at FRCC's Westminster Campus

Branden Ingersoll was always a strong student and an avid writer. But how do you turn that innate talent into a lifelong career when you don’t even know the basics of how to survive college?

Branden decided to get his start at FRCC, and used his time here to learn some fundamental skills that are critical to being successful in college.

And his professors gave him the guidance he needed to figure out a path to his bachelor’s degree… and beyond.

First-Generation College Student    

An outdoorsy Colorado native, Branden grew up in Brighton and graduated from Eagle Ridge Academy. He had always liked school and done well academically. He knew he wanted to go to college but his parents hadn’t had that experience—so he wasn’t exactly sure how to get on the right path.

“My parents encouraged me to pursue college,” he remembers. They told him, “Four years of hard work will save you a lifetime of just grinding by.”

“I was passionate about school and had gotten a lot of positive feedback from teachers about my writing. But I didn’t know what I wanted to do once I got to college.”

Getting Started

A little intimidated by the college application process, he talked to his high school counselor who encouraged him to check out Front Range Community College. “She told me it was a warm, friendly environment with smaller classes. She really recommended it.”

FRCC Welcome Center

He was nervous about starting college—but once he got to FRCC, he found his teachers and classmates engaging and welcoming. “All that angst really dissipated,” he says.

“There were no massive lecture halls. Everything was really personalized.”

He was relieved to discover that his teachers were very encouraging and supportive. “They realized a lot of us were first-generation college students, and made a lot of effort to make sure that assignments were put in front of us in a way that we could achieve.”

From the first day, he particularly enjoyed being around other students who were passionate about their education. “They were very excited to be there. That made group projects fun and inviting. We all got a lot out of being together and learning from each other.”

Important Lessons Learned

Throughout his college career, Branden worked 20-30 hours a week while taking classes full time. He says his time at FRCC helped him learn time management strategies that were critical to doing well in college.

And he didn’t shy away from asking questions or asking for help when he needed it. He went to the writing center in the library frequently. “I remember they offered training sessions to learn how to use different research tools, and those helped me a lot.”

Student and professor writing on white board

Never a big math person, Branden also observed how his favorite math teacher made a big difference for students. “He was awesome. That professor was so passionate, and he would teach a concept in a number of different styles. He would break it down in ways everyone could understand. That pinpointed for me how important good teaching could be. That still inspires me.”

As someone who enjoys hiking and learning about nature, the expanse of open space and trails behind FRCC’s Westminster campus helped him to manage stress. “If I had too much going on, I could take a quick break to stroll around the pond or read the signs and learn about birds.”

“At FRCC I definitely learned a lot of skills for how to deal with stress.”

“It was also just a great introductory experience for learning how to network,” he adds. “I learned a lot through cultivating one-on-one relationships with my professors and experiencing how to be in a professional academic setting. All the skills I picked up at FRCC have become the cornerstones of my success today.”

Choosing a Major

Branden didn’t know exactly what subject he wanted to major in. He had always loved writing, but never really wanted to be an English major. “Reading Poe—and diving into how to rip it apart—was not my thing.”

“I just knew I wanted to keep learning,” he says. “But as far as how to apply my skills and do something with them in life, I was utterly perplexed.”

A public speaking class helped Branden start to see his path. “My professor encouraged students who were undecided to look into the field of communication,” he recalls. “She said there was a wide variety of career options. I didn’t even know communication was something you could study.”

Communication Is the Key

The class pushed him toward pursuing a degree in his newfound discipline. “I had such mind blowing revelations in my communications classes. They gave me such a deeper appreciation for the whole human experience—and opened up a slew of opportunities that I never knew existed.”

A couple of his FRCC professors even asked to keep his essays as examples for other students. “That was a big motivator,” he says. “I had really put my all into a lot of those assignments. I realized that I need to put in that much effort, and more, every time. It was really encouraging to get feedback like that.”

Studying communication also gave him some very tangible practical skills to apply in his further education and career. “For example that public speaking class gave me so much confidence for anything I wanted to do in the future. I learned how to harness anxiety and turn it into an effective speech. When it came time to do an academic conference or school presentations, it was so rewarding. I could get past the jitters and nerves, and I found a lot of doors opening for me.”

Finding a Clear Path

Branden always knew he wanted to go on to a bachelor’s degree, but wasn’t sure which four-year school would be right for him. “It was on my radar, but it was such a monumental mountain to look at. I didn’t know why I would choose one school over the others.”

teacher and student working at desk

After about a year at FRCC, he noticed that a lot of his teachers had mentioned other students who were transferring to Metropolitan State University of Denver. This option started to make sense to Branden for a couple of reasons.

“Everyone said it made for a smooth transition from FRCC, and that students who went there did as well as—or even better than—the students who started there as first years,” he remembers.

“And of course you can save a lot of money going to community college first, and the education I got there was first rate as well.”

Branden’s next step was to chat with his advisors. “I wanted to be close to home to help out my family, so moving far away was off the table for me. My teachers and advisors really helped me figure out how to facilitate that transfer process. They understood my situation and helped me figure out where to go based on the parameters of my personal experience.”

Getting Ready to Transfer

Advising office at Larimer Campus

To make sure he was on the right track to move on to Metro, Branden talked to his FRCC advisor about his course choices. He also says the college website made it clear which classes were guaranteed to transfer. He ended up starting at Metro as a junior with a 3.8 GPA from his time at FRCC.

After that, he says, the transition to a four-year school was easy. “It was very seamless,” he recalls. “Coming from Front Range, it was just ‘plug and play.’ I got registered at Metro and it didn’t take long at all. I already had 59 credits, which transferred straight into the bachelor’s program.”

“Every class I took was a direct transfer. I was able to pop right in and start my junior level classes.”

On to a Bachelor’s Degree

Once he got settled at Metro, Branden fit right in. “I was 100% prepared for my classes after my time at FRCC. It was a different commute, but the same deal. The only thing that was different was that you had to pay for parking,” he laughs.

“When it came to content knowledge or level of organization, I felt like those of us who transferred from Front Range were at least as prepared, if not more so, than our classmates. My teachers at FRCC honed those necessary skills to be successful.”

Branden graduated in December 2020 with his bachelor’s degree in communication studies—with a concentration in rhetoric, ethics and social justice. He also minored in psychology.

Next Stop: Grad School

Branden has now been accepted to the graduate communication program at CU-Denver where he plans to earn a master’s degree, then eventually transfer to a PhD program. He is currently focused on media studies, and has begun to explore psychoanalytic persuasion theory. “I’m looking at how this applies to social media, advertising and big data—and am very interested in how elements of media can impact how we interact with each other and the information tools we use.”

As he prepares to start grad school in the fall, he has also continued working on a couple of undergraduate research presentations from his senior year. He submitted work to the National Communication Association—and his critique of contemporary political rhetoric was chosen as the top paper out of a nationwide pool of submissions. “This project has really exposed me to the process for graduate work, and starting to dive into professional academia.”

Branden has continued to work on this project, which he hopes to publish soon. “I was really nervous—I had never done anything like this before. But I realized the value of the hands-on education I got from Front Range and Metro, and my teachers who were willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears with me.”

On to a Career in Teaching

Branden eventually plans to teach communication at the college level, and would ideally like to work at one of his undergraduate alma maters. “I was lucky enough to have teachers who were excited about their field and who changed the trajectory of my life,” he says. “I would love to be able to give back to the communities that helped me.”

“FRCC is doing really good work for the community and I’m proud to be an alum.”

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