First Generation Student Initiatives updates graduation stole requirements

First generation students now have a more accessible way to qualify for a graduation stole.

Photo by Alexa Christie | The Office of First Generation Student Initiatives 2021 graduation stole.

For UWT First Generation students, walking at commencement with a graduation stole is a way to celebrate their accomplishment of becoming the first generation to graduate college in their family.

DJ Crisostomo, Assistant Director of First-Generation Student Initiatives, describes the UWT First Generation program. as a network of UWT programs and services that are interconnected to best support first-generation students.

“In 2016, a task force was put together by Tanya Velasquez, a UWT faculty member, (that included) faculty members as well as some students who were like ‘We need to do something specific for our first-generation student population.’ After that roughly 25 students got together and started an RSO (to serve first-generation students),” Crisostomo said.

Progressively growing since then, the program. became a UWT Student Transitions program in 2019. 

Prior to 2023, first-generation students were required to attend at least two Office of First-Generation Student Initiatives (OFGSI) events to qualify for a graduation stole. However, after receiving student feedback and reassessing programming, the policy has now been updated.

With the 2023 stole requirement update, any first-generation student who attends at least one OFGSI signature event and submits a self-reflection paragraph on what it means to them to be a first-generation student can qualify for a graduation stole.  

In addition to programming and events, the OFGSI offers professional headshot photos for UWT students, snacks and two fellowship programs, the First-Generation Fellows Cohort and the Financial Wellness Fellows Cohort. 

The First-Generation Fellows Cohort provides focus support services for students who identify as part of the first, and only, generation in their family to graduate from a four-year college. Cohort applications are open to all UWT Sophomores and transfer students. The applications for enrollment are offered in Autumn, Winter and Spring. 

In addition to support services and networking, the First-Generation Fellowship Cohort offers six monetary incentives to participating students who complete program services. Each service offers a $50 reward upon completion. Crisostomo said students can complete anywhere between one and six requirements, with compensation being awarded after each completed requirement. 

“Yanira Pacheco, who is my predecessor, was the one that really started to build out the First-Generation Fellows Cohort. It started as a student club, and she took that and formalized it into a progra.m.. She formalized a lot of the signature events that you see now, like our first generation photo campaign,” Crisostomo said. 

In 2021, in partnership with Sound Outreach and WSECU, Pacheco also started the UWT Financial Wellness Fellows Cohort to promote economic justice within UWT communities. The Financial Wellness Fellows Cohort is open to UWT students who identify as first-generation students or students from historically marginalized communities, with priority enrollment being given to first-generation students.

The Financial Wellness Cohort program provides increased access to financial wellness resources for cohort participants. Like the First-Generation Fellows Cohort, the Financial Wellness Cohort offers monetary incentives for each program service participants complete.

“For the Financial Wellness (Cohort), every single component has a dollar amount (to be awarded to students) attached to it,” Crisostomo said.

The Office of First-Generation Student Initiatives offers an array of signature events for any UWT student to attend. These events focus on creating campus engagement opportunities and fostering community building and validation for first-generation students. Cristomo says attending OFGSI signature events is a great way to get connected with UWT students, staff, faculty and alumni.

Some of the OFGSI signature events include first-generation lunch and learns, breakfast for finals gatherings, guest speaker events, community building workshops and the OFGSI end-of -year celebration. Attendance to any one signature event, and submission of a short personal reflection, qualifies a first-generation student to receive a graduation stole.

For more information on first-generation graduation stoles or to join the OFGSI as a first generation student, contact the Office of First-Generation Student Initiatives at or stop in the First-Generation Student Initiatives office in MAT 213. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Upcoming First-Generation Signature Events:

March 27th     Welcome Back Brunch              Dawg House                 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

April 4th          First Gen Fellows Orientation   MAT 214 & Zoom       12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

April 6th          Financial Wellness Orientation MAT 214 & Zoom        12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

April 10th        First Gen Happy Hour             TPS Ground Floor           4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

April 11th        Acing the Career Fair              MAT 214                           12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.      

April 12th        Resume & Cover Letter           MAT 214                           12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

April 13th        Financial Fear Session             MAT 214 & Zoom             12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

April 17th        Lunch & Learn                         MAT 213 & Zoom              12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

April 18           Prioritizing Sleep with PAWS  MAT 214 & Zoom               12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

April 24th        Asking for a Strong Letter       MAT 214 & Zoom                12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

of Recommendation  

April 25th        Statement of Purpose             MAT 214 & Zoom                   12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

April 26th        Budgeting Workshop              MAT 214 & Zoom                   12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

May 3rd           Smart Borrowing                     MAT 214 & Zoom                   12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

May 4th           Credit with Sound Outreach   MAT 214 & Zoom                    12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

May 8th           Empathy Lab                           JTR/WPH                                 12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

May 9th           Lunch & Learn: Andy Song      MAT 214 & Zoom                  12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

May 16th         Informed Consent with PAWS MAT 214 & Zoom                   12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

May 17th         Investments #1 of 2                MAT 214 & Zoom                    12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

May 22nd        Dr. Arun Mathews                   MAT 214 & Zoom                   12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

May 23rd         First Gen Field Day                  The Green (Court 17)             12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

May 25th         Investments #2                       MAT 214 & Zoom                    12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

May 25th         First Gen End of                      WPH                                        4:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

 the Year Celebration   

May 31st         End of session celebration      MAT 214 & Zoom                   12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

June 5th          Breakfast for Finals                 Dawg House                            9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

June 6th          Lunch & Learn                         MAT 213 & Zoom                  12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

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