Trailblazers of Tomorrow: A First-Gen Graduation

Over 150 Badgers, along with their families and supporters, celebrated being the first in their families to graduate college during “Trailblazers of Tomorrow: A First-Gen Graduation Event.” The event featured remarks from Dean of Students Christina Olstad, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Fernie Rodriguez, and fellow 2024 first-gen graduates Meghan Keefe and Lynda Huang. Author Tanja Pajevik delivered the event’s keynote and spoke to the shared struggles — and rewards — of navigating the college experience as a first-gen student. Thank you to all who attended, as well as the UW–Madison Senior Class Office for co-hosting alongside Student Affairs as part of the new First-Generation Badgers program.

Ciboney Reglos, senior class diversity, equity, & inclusion director, welcome attendees with opening remarks during the 2024 first-generation student graduation.
Lynda Huang, senior class communications & marketing director, shared how her experience taught her “the importance of empathy, inclusivity, and unity in overcoming the hurdles that divide us.”
Dean of Students Christina Olstad, a first-generation graduate herself, celebrated students’ accomplishments alongside their family and friends.
Megan Keefe, senior class vice president, spoke to how her experience as a first-generation student inspired her to be a voice for others and advocate for a more inclusive, equitable society.
With over 400 attendees, students filled Varsity Hall, proudly wearing their UW–Madison caps and gowns.
“Don’t hide who you are, because the world needs your specific gifts now more than ever!” said Tanja Pajevik, UW–Madison alumna and author, in her keynote to first-generation graduates.
Graduates gathered in community in Union South’s Varsity Hall on May 5, preceding UW–Madison’s Commencement ceremonies on May 10-11.
UW–Madison’s first-generation community is strong, event amongst faculty and staff. This includes Dr. Fernie Rodriguez, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, who delivered opening remarks alongside Dean of Students Christina Olstad.
Family, friends, and supporters looked on proudly as they applauded the successes of first-generation graduates.
Varsity Hall came alive with excitement, joy, and pride as UW–Madison’s first-generation graduates came together for the last time before Commencement.
Alongside family, friends, and supporters, graduate first-gen Badgers celebrated the perseverance and dedication it took to reach this academic milestone.