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Celebrating Our First-Generation College Community

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

On November 8, for the fifth year, 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.

Being the first at anything is challenging. First-generation students, both undergraduate and graduate may feel invisible, feel torn about being away from family and may not feel like they belong. Many have feelings of “imposter syndrome” and wonder if they can succeed as “the first.” This is a feeling I know well – I am also a first-generation college graduate.

As I began my journey into higher education, I had the support of my family, but we were not sure where to begin or what to expect in the process. Thankfully, I was part of Educational Talent Search, a TRIO program. I also had help and encouragement from some in my community who had graduated from college, to help me plan, apply and set expectations as I explored what college meant to me. Once at college I found community within my fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma and support through Student Support Services, a TRIO program, while I pursued my degree. Since being the first in my family to graduate, I have experienced the pride of seeing others in my family attend colleges and complete their degrees. I know that my story is part of the larger University of Washington First-Generation story. There are many of us here on campus – from first-year students, to chancellors, deans, and countless faculty and staff with similar experiences.

To our first-generation college students, faculty, and staff, let me tell you definitively, you belong here. 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 UW. Some opportunities to celebrate our first-generation community including 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