Skip to main content
First Gen Rock Painting
UT Interim Chancellor Wayne T. Davis poses with first-generation students, faculty, and staff who gathered to sign the Rock and have lunch on November 8, 2018. Photo by Steven Bridges.

A cookout, hot chocolate bar, painting the Rock, and a celebration on social media are just some of the special events taking place as UT celebrates first-generation college students November 4–8. The event is part of a nationwide initiative to highlight the success of first-generation students and bring attention to the support and resources available to them.

Nearly a quarter of UT’s undergraduate students are first-generation, meaning their parents do not have a four-year degree. Current first-generation students, as well as faculty and staff who were first-generation students, will wear specially designed “First Gen” T-shirts and lapel pins.

“Last year we celebrated National First-Generation College Student Day, and it was such a success that this year’s committee scheduled a week of activities and events,” said Karen Sullivan-Vance, associate vice provost for student success. “Being first means you are a trailblazer, and it’s exciting but also sometimes difficult. There are many first-generation faculty and staff on campus, myself included, who are here to help and support them.”

Last year, UT was designated a First Forward institution. This national recognition from the Center for First-generation Student Success recognizes institutions of higher education that have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students.

“Sometimes when you are the first in your family to go to college, you feel a little bit out of place when you get here. That’s why celebrations like this are important,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “We want our first-generation students to know that they aren’t alone, that there are resources available to them and people on this campus who are cheering for their success.”

A full list of events is available on the Division of Academic Success and Transitions web page.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,

Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993,