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What is the National First-Generation College Celebration?

In November 2017, the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) partnered with the Center for First-Generation Student Success, which is an initiative of NASPA and the Suder Foundation, to launch the inaugural First-Generation College Celebration. The now annual event, which is held each year on November 8 to commemorate the anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, encourages colleges and universities across the country to celebrate the successes of the institution's first-generation faculty, staff, and students.

In 2018, the University of Iowa chose to extend the celebration to encompass a full week of events, which are hosted by departments and colleges across the university. Some events are targeted to specific populations, such as first-gen students in a specific college, while others are open to the entire campus community. 

Group photo of students, faculty, staff wearing first-gen t-shirts


2021 National First-Generation College Celebration
November 8 - 12, 2021

In 2021, most events returned in-person. Departments and colleges across campus held lunches and tabling events, offered refreshments throughout the week, and featured first-gen students, faculty, and staff in departmental and social media postings. In addition, a UI BUILD session was offered, a mass email went out on November 8, the award ceremony was held, and a group photo was taken on the Old Capitol steps (pictures coming soon!).

2021 First-Generation College Celebration Highlights: 


2020 National First-Generation College Celebration
November 8 - 13, 2020

In 2020, we kept the tradition of celebrating our first-generation students for an entire week, even though most events had to be moved online due to the ongoing pandemic. While this year's celebration looked different than previous years, it was still a fantastic success with over a dozen events held throughout the week, multiple social media campaigns, and special messaging delivered to campus from top UI administrators. 

2020 First-Generation College Celebration Highlights:


2019 National First-Generation College Celebration
November 3 - 8, 2019

While we continued the tradition of a week-long celebration, in 2019 the University also hosted its inaugural First-Generation Student Awards and Recognition Ceremony. Held on November 8, this event recognized five University of Iowa individuals’ first-generation related accomplishments. The Award for Outstanding First-Generation Student Advocacy honored one faculty member and one staff member who support first-generation students’ education and serve as an exemplary advocate for first-generation students at the University of Iowa. In addition, the First-Generation Student Achievement Award honored two first-generation undergraduates student and one first-generation graduate or professional student who has pursued and met ambitious educational goals and demonstrated commitment to academic excellence. The ceremony was hosted in the Stanley Café in Hancher Auditorium.

This year's celebration week began with the UI Student Government's annual "I'm the First" First-Generation Summit, held on November 3rd, and concluded with the 1stGen@Iowa Awards ceremony on November 8th.

2019 First-Generation College Celebration Highlights:


2018 National First-Generation College Celebration
November 5 - 9, 2018

While the official celebration day is November 8th, the University of Iowa chose to participate in the 2018 First-Generation College Celebration during the entire week of November 5-9. 

In 2018, the University of Iowa’s inaugural participation in the National First-Generation College Celebration was marked by an entire week of activities across campus. Examples of events included: two screenings of the First Generation film, departmental trainings and data-sharing sessions, FAFSA and financial literacy workshops, opportunities for students to share their experiences via wall postings, multiple coffee breaks or luncheons with college deans, graduate student socials, panel discussions, an open mic gathering, social media postings, university counseling discussions designed specifically for first-generation students, and TA trainings. In addition, the celebration was featured in University of Iowa media outlets and institutional leaders, including President Harreld, expressed enthusiastic support through campus-wide emails. 

See President Harreld’s invitation to participate in the National First-Generation College Celebration (Iowa Now)
Read more about UI Plans to Commemorate First-Generation Student Success (Daily Iowan)


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