UAlbany Recognized for Support of First-Gen Students

A soman wearing a headscarf, face mask and glasses along with graduation robes holds a circular sticker that says 1st generation graduate.
(Photo by Brian Busher)

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 15, 2022) — In recognition of its work recruiting, supporting and graduating first-generation students, UAlbany has been designated a 2022-2023 First-gen Forward institution.

The award, the nation's first designation program acknowledging higher education institutions for their commitment to first-generation students, is though NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and the Center for First-generation Student Success.

a circular logo with the words First-Gen Forward Institution, Center for First-Generation Student Success

“UAlbany’s designation as a First-gen Forward institution is an important recognition of the countless faculty, staff and administrators who have lent their voices and experiences to supporting and championing our first-gen students,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Christakis. “As a first-gen college graduate, I know first-hand how essential these support networks are to ensuring student success in college and beyond.”

With about 40 percent of UAlbany students identified as first-gen — meaning they are the first in their families graduate from college — UAlbany has developed a strong support network, now focused under an umbrella task force called First Generation Scholars. The group works to develop both resources and programs that benefit first-gen students, as well as best practices across disciplines to nurture these students.

One example is UUNI 99, a new 8-week, non-credit workshop that brings first-gen students together to learn to better navigate the University experience, including finding financial and academic advisement, campus jobs and mentors, navigating course offerings and getting involved in clubs and campus events. The workshop is taught each week by different faculty and staff, many of whom share their own first-gen experiences.

The task force also encouraged first-gen University faculty and staff to share their status in posters, door signs and on social media, to become role models for new first-gen students. And it is launching a peer educator program called GOAL (Generation One Academic Learning) for successful first-gen students who have completed UUNI 99 to work with the faculty and new first-gen students in future years in the workshop.

Dean of Students Clarence McNeill, also a first-gen graduate, co-leads the task force with Linda Krzykowski, associate vice provost and executive director of the First Year Experience.

“All task force members recognize that it is our civic responsibility to provide our first-gen students with the necessary support and tools to be successful Great Danes,” McNeill said. “Students in UUNI 99 have shared that the class was a great introduction to the University and provided them with opportunities to foster connections with first-gen peers, faculty and staff who have of are currently walking the same path.”

The First-gen Forward designation allows University personnel to receive professional development and to share resources, challenges and successes, and best practices with other designees. They also can participate in NASPA’s First-gen Forward workshop in June.