Nov. 8, UW Tacoma’s First Gen Fellows joined higher education institutions across the nation in celebration of first generation students, faculty and staff in the Mattress Factory’s Dawg House. Attendees celebrated the success of first-gen students with cupcakes and wore pins proclaiming “I Am First-Generation.”
UWT’s chancellor, Mark Pagano, and ASUWT president Arwa Dubad — both first-gen students themselves — were in attendance and each gave a speech.
“I know your life as a first-gen student is often difficult, but you have First Gen here to support you,” Pagano said.
First-gen students comprise 57.6 percent of UWT students, according to the most recent statistics of autumn quarter shared by Chancellor Pagano.
“I am very proud of this organization and how active it has become,” Pagano said.
UWT’s First Gen Fellows exists to support and encourage students who identify as the first in their family to attend college — who often experience unique challenges. For many first generation students, transitioning into college life can be difficult without background knowledge from family.
First Gen Fellows — which is composed of student officers and volunteers — also aims to provide education to students. Various workshops and events they host throughout the year are designed to guide students through their transition into college — including terminology, empowerment and leadership.
“It has been a humbling experience seeing the Fellows work through the night to support other first-gen students,” Dubad said.
UWT was one among many other higher education institutions to celebrate first-gen students on the 52nd anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The Act was signed by former president Lyndon B. Johnson to provide resources and financial support to colleges and universities.
Amendments to the Act in 1980 included the term “first-generation” to specifically support this group of students.
The inaugural nationwide celebration was organized by the Council for Opportunity in Education. This nonprofit’s mission is to “Achieve college access and success for low-income students, first-generation students, and students with disabilities.”
NASPA — student affairs administrators in higher education — and the Association of American Colleges and Universities joined with the Council in promoting the event. The goal was to promote the existence, importance and success of first-gen students, faculty and staff.
All three UW campuses held celebrations of first-gen students and distributed the UW “I Am First-Generation” pins.
Dubad ended her speech with discussing how important first-gen students are to the entire UWT community.
“This is a celebration of all of our students and their success,” Dubad said.
CORRECTION: the Association of American Colleges and Universities was incorrectly transcribed, fixed Nov 27.