Recognizing First-gen Graduates

Ashlee Young M.Ed., Assistant Director, University of Nebraska-Lincoln / The Center / May 14, 2020

There are many challenges facing this year’s graduates as they prepare to navigate life post-college during the time of COVID-19. Having graduated during the height of the Great Recession, I can empathize with their feelings of frustration and fears for an unknown future. However, I cannot grasp the disappointment that so many feel about losing out on their college graduation ceremonies.

Throughout my various social media platforms, I have seen seniors lamenting the loss. Particularly as a first-generation college student, to not have the opportunity to walk the stage is devastating. Being the first that your family will see graduate, and what being a first-generation graduate means for your own life, the lives of your family, and the lives of your community – I often hear from my scholars how this moment is not just for them; it is a collective achievement. As a first-gen grad myself, one of the most impactful moments for me in my undergraduate career was when I walked out of my graduation holding my diploma and leaving to the sounds of “There is No Place like Nebraska.” Reflecting on what that moment means, and knowing our first-generation grads were going to be left without that experience in May, we knew we needed to find a way to recognize our first-generation grads specifically.

Within a week of having the idea to acknowledge our first-gen grads, we had prepared a congratulations message that included custom social media backgrounds and a video created by members of our First Generation Nebraska Advisory Board. We are grateful to our partners in University Communications for their enthusiastic support in making this happen.

Working with partners in the University Registrar’s office, we pinpointed over 800 first-generation undergraduates to send our congratulations to. The number of people who have opened and read our message is twice this amount – meaning our graduates are sharing this message with their loved ones. Our advisory board could not be happier with this response.

We hope that this gesture allows our first-generation graduates to understand how much their success can inspire current and future first-generation Huskers. We are so incredibly proud of them and of our campus community. GO BIG RED!

For more information on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's approach, please visit their website here.