Seeds of Change

Clarence L. McNeill, State University of New York at Albany / The Center / May 24, 2023

First-gen program logo purple sticker

In the spring of 2019, the State University of New York at Albany (UAlbany) established a cross-divisional taskforce with the purpose of assisting first-generation students in navigating the college experience. Considering that 30 percent of UAlbany students identify as first-generation, it was imperative that this taskforce be diverse and inclusive not just in the traditional sense, but also in its experience, commitment, skillset, and influence. This partnership brought together members from the divisions of Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, the Alumni Association and Communications and Marketing. The Taskforce set out to establish a “brand identity” for our work in the first-generation space, which was accomplished in short order. At the start of the fall semester, we launched the brand and hosted our inaugural “welcome/networking” social for first-generation students of the Class of 2023 (our most recent graduates). As we were beginning to gather steam, we (like many college campuses) were hit with a global pandemic and campus activity came to a halt. This did not stop us.

The FIRST GEN Taskforce launched officially in Fall 2019, and we began constructing a poster campaign for faculty and staff who identified as first-generation supporters and allies. The goal of the campaign was to publicly identify ourselves as first-generation to bring awareness to the identity. Simultaneously, with assistance from our colleagues in Academic Affairs, specifically Dr. Linda Krzykowski, Associate Vice Provost for Student Engagement and Executive Director of the First-Year Experience, we began to construct an 8-week course entitled, “Pick Your Path.” This course was designed for incoming first-generation students with the goal of connecting them to campus resources and support offices, opportunities for experiential learning, and networking. Since then, we have had close to two hundred students register and participate in the Pick Your Path course.

I am proud to say that just this past weekend, four of our FIRST GEN Taskforce Scholars were highlighted during Commencement Weekend!

Success stories like Emmanuel, Corey, Shayla, and Rosmery’s are not few and far between here at UAlbany. The University has earned the “Seal of Excelencia” and we are proud to add the distinction of being a First-gen Forward Institution to that list. All it took was a few seeds of change to be planted in 2019.


This past year, the University at Albany celebrated our first-generation students, faculty and staff the week of November 7 – 10. The FIRST GEN Celebration Week was planned by the FIRST GEN Taskforce. This campus-wide celebration brought first-generation faculty, staff, students, and allies together to celebrate our identity. We hosted networking socials, focus groups, and mentor/mentee conversations to talk about their journeys in college and how to be successful. Learn more on our website!

For more information on State University of New York at Albany's approach, please visit their website here.