A Night of Firsts: First-Gen Badgers Gather for First-Generation College Celebration Day

Written by Darby Winchel, Communications Manager for New Students

On November 8, over 90 students, staff, and faculty gathered to celebrate National First-Generation College Celebration Day in the Fluno Center Skyview Room.

As a fellow first-gen student, I was inspired by the support for this inaugural event, hosted by the new First-Generation Badger program. It was also evident that the newest wave of first-gen Badgers possessed an incredible level of enthusiasm and pride for their first-gen status.

I know firsthand how being the first in your family to attend college comes with its own challenges – from opting out of dinners with friends to explaining why you can’t help roommates purchase furniture for the apartment.

First-gen students spoke to similar issues and more in last month’s Badger Dialogue session. Other examples included burning out from trying to prove you belong – or managing the stress of overcommitting yourself. Financial burdens, culture clashes, and communication struggles with other students also created shared hurdles.

These obstacles can make the first-gen student experience feel isolating. However, Wednesday’s event reminded folks: Our first-gen community is strong. Faculty and staff encouraged current students to lean on them while navigating their college career – and not to forget that they deserve to be here.


Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor, also a first-generation college graduate, reminded attendees, “We each have our own story, our own journey, our own dreams. Stay focused on the unique force you bring to this world. And while you can learn from others’ experiences, don’t let that knowledge steal the joy in who you are and are working toward being. Live every moment. Remember you are worth celebrating.”

The First-Generation Badgers program will host additional programming for Winter Welcome, a seasonal event series hosted by Wisconsin Welcome, as well as a First-Gen Graduate Celebration in May 2024. Learn more about the program, resources, and upcoming events at go.wisc.edu/FirstGen.

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