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Tri-Campus Letter from University Diversity Officer

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

On Wednesday 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 celebration falls on the 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.

Melissa Raap, MSW, is the program manager for the UW Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMA&D) Champions program. Her first-generation college student story has familiar tones to so many who have been “the first” to navigate the sometimes-complex systems of higher education. We hear from students every year about the challenges they face as first-generation college students. Some struggle to understand applications or financial aid, and may feel as though they are living a double life. Others face the often-invisible challenges of finding community and belonging on a college campus. As we read in Melissa’s story, even with the support of family and friends, these obstacles can leave students feeling unsure of where to go for help or feeling lost on a new campus. This experience can be very isolating and lonely.

I want first-generation college students to know that you are not alone at the University of Washington. There are many of us here in the first-generation community – from first-year students to alumni, chancellors, deans, and countless faculty and staff who have persevered and overcome many of the same feelings – and are thriving at our great institution.

Colleagues at the UW Seattle College of Arts and Sciences, and also on the UW Tacoma campus have compiled a collection of stories from a diverse range of students, alumni, faculty and staff. Like the story of OMA&D’s Melissa Raap, these profiles highlight the resilience and perseverance of so many others, both past and present.

We have planned events and activities across all three campuses to celebrate you being here. To participate in the celebration and demonstrate that many in our community have experienced this pathway in higher education, we’re inviting all students, faculty and staff who are the first in their families to attend college to participate in these events and activities, and to take advantage of the community of support available to you at the UW. Some opportunities to celebrate our first-generation community are listed below in the links, however, a full description of events and resources can be found here.

We are proud to be an institution that supports the success and presence of our first-generation community. I look forward to seeing the ways in which you will join us and thank you for recognizing this important celebration. Together we will continue to advance educational opportunity for all students.


Rickey Hall
University of Washington
University Diversity Officer