Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

November 5, 2017

UW to Participate in National First-Generation College Celebration on November 8

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

On November 8, the University of Washington joins the Council for Opportunity in Education, NASPA’s Center for First-Generation Student Success, the American Association of Colleges & Universities and higher education institutions across the country in recognizing the National First-Generation College Celebration.

This first-annual celebration falls on the 52nd anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. Among the many resources and initiatives connected to the legacy of HEA is the recognition of the experience of those who are the first in their families to attend college.

First-Generation ButtonTo promote the celebration and demonstrate to students that many in our community have experienced similar pathways in higher education, faculty and staff on all three UW campuses who were first-generation college students have been invited to wear “I Am First-Generation” buttons. Beginning November 8 and throughout the academic year, students, faculty and staff are also encouraged to participate by using the hashtag #celebratefirstgen in social media posts and pictures.

First-generation students comprise an impressive 34.8 percent of our undergraduate enrollment at all three UW campuses. Out of the 4,846 new graduate students this fall, over 1,000 identified as first-generation. As a university we take great pride in supporting their experiences within our community.

Many outstanding efforts are underway and below are a few highlights from throughout the university:

UW Bothell

  • Since 2007, Dr. Jane Van Galen, herself a first-generation student and professor in Educational Studies, has led digital storytelling workshops and courses for faculty, staff and students, to showcase how first-generation students navigate the social and cultural norms of higher education.
  • One of the more popular programs is the Academic Transitions Program. Sponsored by Coca-Cola, this program identifies and supports dozens of first-gen students with financial aid, special programming, mentoring and high impact learning experiences.
  • Students are also welcomed into the Bothell community through the First Generation Network, a program supported by Orientation & Transition Programs in Student Affairs.

UW Seattle

  • The Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity (OMA&D), which administers several programs that broaden college access and provide academic support for thousands of first-generation students on campus and across the state, will celebrate its 50th anniversary during the 2018 winter and spring quarters.
  • Five new Department of Education grants totaling $35.4 million over the next seven years are deepening OMA&D’s efforts to support first-generation pre-college students statewide.
  • Advising & Orientation includes online modules designed to help undergraduate students demystify the college experience, define terms and navigate university structure. Students also have the opportunity to find community and take pride in being first-generation by wearing affinity buttons to recognize their experience.

UW Tacoma

  • The “We are First Generation” campaign celebrates students, faculty, and staff who are the first in the family to attend college, and the diverse experiences and strengths they bring to our learning community.
  • First Gen Fellows also referred as “First Generation College Students” is an initiative lead by students to support students that self-identify into the program through various support resources and services, and extensive campus referral networks.
  • The Center for Equity & Inclusion (CEI) aims to enhance campus education, develop community partnerships, and cultivate our diverse campus community. Current programs like the Real Talk Series, supports the social and academic success of first generation college students by engaging them in critical discussions on current social justice topics, and encouraging them to explore their intersecting identities through the arts.

Tri-Campus Graduate Student Support

  • Core Programs in the Graduate School kicked off its second year of programming this fall with the First Gen Grad Initiative. Along with a student advisory board, the initiative creates opportunities for master’s and doctoral students who are first-generation to come together to form community, connections and learn from each other.

Thank you for recognizing this important celebration. Together we will continue to advance educational opportunity for all students.


Rickey Hall
University of Washington
Chief Diversity Officer

First Generation Pride
Ask me about being the first in my family to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees