2023 National First-Generation College Celebration

November 6 - 10, 2023

National First-Gen College Celebration Logo

Held each year on November 8th to commemorate the anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, the National First-Generation College Celebration encourages colleges and universities across the country to celebrate the successes of the institution's first-generation students.

Historical Context: Why November 8?

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 8th 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.

The University of Iowa began participating in the event in 2018, but chose to mark the occasion with a full week of activities, and has done so ever since. Each year, during the first week of November, dozens of events are organized by departments and colleges from across the university. Some events are targeted towards specific populations, such as first-generation students in a specific college, while others are open to the entire campus community. The week typically closes with the university's annual 1stGen@Iowa Awards and Recognition ceremony, which was first held in 2019.

first-gen celebration enjoys bipartisan support

First Ever Bipartisan Resolution Supporting First-Generation Student Success

Thank you, Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS), Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID) for introducing the first-ever bipartisan resolution acknowledging November 8 as the National First-Generation College Celebration day. 

S. RES. 437 celebrates the accomplishments of first-gen college students and demonstrates how intentionally supporting one third of currently enrolled college students increases access and success across postsecondary experiences.

Read S. RES. 437

Past Celebration Week Highlights

College of Business celebration

2022 Celebration Highlights

November 7 - 11, 2022

UI students, faculty, staff honored with 1stGen@Iowa awards
(11.11.2022 Iowa Now)

UI Libraries recognizes first-generation staff and student workers
(11.07.2022 UI Library News Blog)

2022 was our largest celebration yet, with over two dozen events and activities scheduled throughout the week. Interested in reading more about the various events that were held? Visit the 2022 Schedule page. During the 2022 celebration, we introduced the new "Proud to be First-Gen" and "Proud to Support First-Gen" emblems, which can be found on the Ways to Make a Difference page. These emblems can be downloaded and used in both electronic and hard copy communications. In addition to a campus-wide email from university leaders, other communication efforts included postcards, introducing students to the 1stGen@Iowa Mentor Network, sent to all first year, first-gen students who live on campus. We have plans for more communications about the 1stGen@Iowa Mentor Network as well!

2022 Celebration Highlights

2022 Celebration Highlights
people wearing their first-gen at Iowa t-shirts

2021 Celebration Highlights

November 8 - 12, 2021

UI faculty, staff, and students recognized with first-generation awards (11.11.2021 Iowa Now)

The University of Iowa's First-Generation College Celebration (NASPA Center for First-Generation Student Success blog post)

In 2021, most events returned to 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 8th, the award ceremony was held, and a group photo was taken on the Old Capitol Museum steps.

Pentacrest at Dusk

2020 Celebration Highlights

November 8 - 13, 2020

UI faculty, staff, and students recognized with 2020 First-Generation Awards (11.12.2020 Iowa Now)

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 from UI campus leaders.

Special (video) Message to First-Generation Students from the UI Campus
2019 first-gen at Iowa award recipients

2019 Celebration Highlights

November 3 - 8, 2019

UI First Generation Summit encourages students to remove the stigma behind the first-generation experience (11.03.2019 Daily Iowan)

First-generation college celebration week comes to an end with awards ceremony (11.10.2019 Daily Iowan)

UI faculty, staff, and students recognized with First-Generation awards (11.11.2019 Iowa Now)

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



first-generation film poster

2018 Celebration Highlights

November 5 - 9, 2018

President Bruce Harreld: Join us for the National First-Generation College Celebration (11.01.2018 Iowa Now)

UI commemorates first-gen student success with week-long celebration (11.05.2018 Daily Iowan)

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: campus-wide celebration emails, 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.