UCI first-gen student takes a selfie with Peter the Anteater at a UCI First-Gen Week 2023 event.

The University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) is a proud supporter of first-generation (first-gen) students, faculty, and staff. To honor UC Irvine’s incredible first-gen community of over 14,000, UCI Student Success Initiatives (SSI) hosts an annual celebration dedicated to highlighting the first-gen experience, uplifting first-gen voices, and providing special services and opportunities for the first-gen community. 

This year, in addition to observing National First-Gen Day on November 8, SSI expanded the celebration to encompass a full week of workshops, presentations, and other events that recognized the presence, contributions, and experiences of UC Irvine’s entire first-gen population.“With UC Irvine’s student body comprised of over 40% first-generation students, we realized that many were unaware of their status until introduced to the concept,” says SSI Director Joanna Hernandez. “In an effort to enhance visibility and foster student engagement, we decided to extend the First-Gen Day celebration. This also gave us the opportunity to provide a more comprehensive array of programming and events.”

UCI First-Gen Week Events

UCI First-Gen Week took place from Monday, November 6, to Thursday, November 9. The week-long celebration kicked off with several events, including a tabling session for first-gen campus programs, a UCI Counseling Center presentation on combating impostor syndrome, and a UCI ANTrepreneur Center workshop on maximizing professional opportunities by creating a strong LinkedIn profile.

Day 2 of UCI First-Gen Week featured “Reflective Sips: First-Gen Mixer,” a special networking event that invited first-gen students, faculty, and staff to join SSI for coffee, pastries, and a fun arts and crafts activity. This informal gathering offered a fun and welcoming environment for UC Irvine’s first-gen population to connect. Later that day, the UCI Transfer Student Center partnered with the UCI Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program to host a special Transfer Talk on how students could get involved with research.

Day 3 of UCI First-Gen Week was the big First-Gen Day Celebration. This day marked the 7th Annual First-Generation College Celebration, which commemorates the 58th Anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which increased access to higher education for low-income and first-gen populations. The UCI First-Gen Day Celebration’s main event was a resource fair where a diverse array of campus units and organizations hosted booths offering information on the resources and services available to first-gen students. The fair also featured live musical performances, a photo booth, engaging activities, and special prizes and giveaways. On this day, Tiffany López, Dean of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, also gave a special talk titled “My First Gen Experience” where she shared her personal and academic journey as a first-gen college student. Following the resource fair, the Transfer Student Center and the Counseling Center hosted a Transfer Tea Social Hour, and the ANTrepreneur Center hosted a photo session where first-gen students were invited to take free professional headshots. 

UCI First-Gen Week closed out on Day 4 with a special workshop titled “Planting Possibilities,” where first-gen students were invited to create goals and cultivate their personal, academic, and career aspirations. Workshop attendees took home a small potted plant as a reminder of the growth they would achieve. Finally, the ANTrepreneur Center hosted one last session for first-gen students to get free professional headshots.

Reflecting on UCI First-Gen Week

One of the crowning achievements of UCI First-Gen Week was the wide support it received from units and organizations across campus. “There was a true spirit of collaboration at the heart of UCI First-Gen Week,” explains Ryan Foland, Director of the UCI ANTrepreneur Center. “We were excited to show our support, and it was great to see so many diverse campus initiatives coming together to celebrate the first-gen community.” 

According to Brighitte Preciado, SSI Program Director of Student Retention Programs, having campus’s full support is what made UCI First-Gen Week such a success:

“We at SSI were very pleased with the support and reception we received throughout First-Gen Week. We welcomed hundreds of students, staff, and faculty at our resource fair and First-Gen Talk featuring Dean Tiffany López. There were also high levels of engagement on our social media accounts and at our workshops, socials, and events during the week. We are thrilled with this success, and we are especially grateful to our campus partners who attended our resource fair and assisted us in hosting additional events. Their support is what made First-Gen Week possible.”

With the inaugural UCI First-Gen Week in the books, SSI Director Joanna Hernandez is happy to reflect on the positive impact the event had on campus as a whole:

“I strongly believe that First-Gen Week plays a pivotal role in fortifying our UC Irvine community. These events contribute significantly by fostering self-awareness among students, encouraging them to share not only their challenges but also their triumphs. Open to all, these occasions beckon students to appreciate the beauty of diversity and the shared first-generation experience. By celebrating our collective identity, we elevate the visibility of the first-generation narrative across students, staff, and faculty and reinforce the essence of who we are as a UC Irvine campus community.”

If you missed out on UCI First-Gen Week 2023, then get excited for  UCI First-Gen Week 2024! Mark your calendars for the week of November 6, 2024, and stay tuned for news and updates!

Want to learn more or get involved with UC Irvine’s first-gen community? Then visit the UCI First Generation website for information on initiatives, services, and upcoming events. To learn more about UCI SSI, visit their website or follow them on Facebook and  Instagram.