Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
On Tuesday 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.
Dr. June Hairston, known by the staff and students she works with as Dr. June, is the director for the UW Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMA&D) Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP). She recently shared her journey from community college to earning her Ed.D as a first-generation college student and the impact that has had on future generations of her family. Dr. June aspired to continue learning after high school. “I wanted to attend community college, I knew a four-year college was out of the picture.” Her parents wanted her to attend college, but they did not have the money. “I broke down and started crying.” Her mother managed to pay for her first quarter, but Dr. June had to find a way to continue her studies and pay for it herself. “That’s how my college experience started out – with tears, disappointment and hard work.” Overcoming the challenges of studying at the same time as having a career, starting a family and setbacks due to beating cancer – and with help and encouragement from many people along the way, Dr. June Hairston earned her Ed.D. in 2015, an accomplishment spanning four decades.
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.” Even more struggle to navigate difficult situations without the benefit of foreknowledge from someone who has been down this path before. Dr. June’s 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 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.
University of Washington
University Diversity Officer