Undergraduate Academic Affairs

November 8, 2018

Celebrating National First-Generation College Student Day

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

In honor of National First-Generation College Student Day, we asked a few UAA staff members who were the first in their families to attend and graduate from college how the experience changed their life.

Photo of Amber Barcel

Amber Barcel

Graduate Student Mentor, Carlson Center, Undergraduate Community Based Internships

“College has changed my life by introducing me to people I would have never met otherwise. I am learning how to be a better person here. As a 31-year-old in graduate school, this is the first time I am learning from professors who look like me. It has totally amplified my desire to learn, grow and be challenged. Thanks to my college education, I am able to advocate for myself and others.”


Photo of Kathryn CornforthKathryn Pursch Cornforth

Associate Director, Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center

“College opened possibility for me — in career path, ways of civic action, and notions of leadership. It gave me space to discover who I am, instead of who others understood me to be.”


Photo of Jodene DavisJodene Davis

Director of Strategic Initiatives, Undergraduate Academic Affairs

“I met a lot of new people, people who were different from me AND people who were like me in ways that I hadn’t experienced before. I also got my first grown-up job working at UW as a student and it continues to be a place I learn and grow. I guess you could say that ‘college’ is still changing my life.”


Photo of Katherine HiraiKatherine Hirai

Academic Counselor, Undergraduate Academic Affairs Advising

“The University of Washington has changed my life in so many ways. I discovered my drive to help others and uplift my community, I made my closest friends who have challenged me to be better every day and I met my partner through a study abroad program. I would not have the privilege or platform to be in UAA academic advising without the university.”


Photo of Kristen LambKristen Lamb

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Robinson Center for Young Scholars

“Studying at a university opened up my world to various viewpoints and perspectives. Over the years, as I worked through my graduate degrees, it gave me a platform to do and share meaningful work at local and national levels. Now, on the other side of all the hard work and challenging moments that accompany university studies, I do what I can as a researcher and an educator to impact the lives of students, some like myself, to help them see the potential within themselves and open up a world of possibilities for them.”

Photo of Eric Lopez Eric Lopez

Manager of Community Relations, UW Dream Project

“Going to college gave me the opportunity to connect more with my sense of self and grow in my understanding of my identities. I gained language to articulate feelings and ideas that I had my entire life. It was truly a transformational experience for me. I was able to find community and partake in experiences that paved the way to find a career that I truly enjoy. It has given me the tools to pay it forward through the role I have here at UW Seattle.”


Photo of Natalia Esquivel SilvaNatalia Esquivel Silva

Academic Adviser & First-year Graduate Student, OMAD

“College has given me opportunities to make a positive impact on my own life and the life of others.”


Photo of Ed TaylorEd Taylor

Vice Provost and Dean, Undergraduate Academic Affairs

“I was the first in my family to attend and complete college. As a first-generation student, the entire university experience was new and unique. Each day brought wonder, awareness, and an appreciation of the vastness of the campus experience.”


Photo of Julie VillegasJulie Villegas

Acting Director, Honors Program

“As the daughter of an immigrant from Mexico (Guadalajara), I am proud to be the first person in my family to attend college. Education has allowed me to be more present in both worlds (Mexico and U.S.), to gain knowledge in my field and look critically at issues of equity and inclusion, to become a successful professional and to be a role model for my daughters.”