Portraits of first generation UW students and alumni

Arts & Sciences First-Generation Storytelling Celebration


of Arts & Sciences students
are first-generation students

Honoring the College of Arts & Sciences First-Generation Community

First-generation students are central to the life and richness of the College of Arts & Sciences community. They are faculty educating the next generation. They are alumni driving change in their communities. They are donors investing in access and equity across the College. And they are current Huskies, charting their own unique paths and making an indelible mark on this University as they do. Join us in learning from and celebrating our first-generation community through the stories below. 

Video featuring current student, Kaitlyn Pitts. Biochemistry and Dance Major. 

Featured Stories

Photo of Brandi Cossairt in front of UW Chemistry Building

I am First-Gen: Brandi Cossairt

As a faculty member, my experience as a first-gen student ensures that I know how much potential is inside every student – even those that have not yet had their opportunity to shine. It helps me talk candidly to students when I see them struggling and helps me be more empathetic and effective as a mentor. I really believe and try to instill that hard work, curiosity, and passion can lead to success in academics.

MJ Mencias standing in front of Allen Library

I am First-Gen: MJ Mencias

I was born in Honduras, La Ceiba, and raised in Miami, Florida, where I did not have the opportunity to pursue formal education. As a teenager, I became a mother, making attending school and working seem unattainable. My path took a dramatic turn upon moving to Washington, where a car accident compelled me to reinvent my life. As a first-generation college student, my journey through higher education has been challenging and inspiring.

Pedro Caballero standing on UW campus

I am First-Gen: Pedro Caballero

I come from a low-income family where I’m the only boy with four amazing sisters, and the child of agricultural working immigrants from Mexico. My experience as a first-generation college student has been one of gratitude. I would say that you are never alone in a world of uncertainty. That through failure you will learn to succeed, that it’s never as bad as it seems, and that you’re so much stronger than you know.   

Other Inspiring Stories

  • Annegret Oehme

    I am First-Generation: Annegret Oehme

    "Seek mentors and advisors whom you can trust and who also understand your situation. Ask questions if you are unsure about procedures, classes, or course of studies! Use the resources you have available. Don’t ever feel embarrassed for asking for advice or help! UW holds many resources and nobody wants to see you fail!" - Annegret Oehme, Associate Professor, Department of German Studies

    11/08/2023 | College of Arts & Sciences
  • Juan Rodriguez at graduation with his mother.

    I am First-Generation: Juan Rodriguez

    "There are going to be many days where it doesn't seem to make sense, and that is an incredibly vulnerable space to maneuver, but just know that you belong here at this incredible university along with every great opportunity you come across in your journey.  It's okay to not have the answers or feel entirely comfortable in new spaces you'll find yourself in. Use curiosity to your advantage and ask questions, read for fun beyond the classroom, listen to new music that makes you want to bop around, or take a walk, and look for chances to join student organizations. Curiosity is a great tool in the classroom, and it will also serve you well beyond the University of Washington. Give it your all because you'll get back what you put in." - Juan Rodriguez, Marketing Production Specialist, College of Arts & Sciences

    11/07/2023 | College of Arts & Sciences
  • Dr. Alexes Harris graduating.

    I am First-Generation: Alexes Harris

    "Have faith in yourself. Guide the decisions you make with YOUR passions, YOUR insight, and YOUR questions, what feels good to YOU! Do not let others or your fear force you in a certain direction or limit your potential. I always said, and continue to say to myself, that the only person I am competing with in life is myself.  Do not let anyone hold you back. Ask tons of questions, do not be afraid to ask for support or help when you need it. The smartest people stop and ask for help or clarity when they are unsure. Listen to advice, but seek it from many people and use what resonates with you the most. Do not be afraid to fail or stumble. Everyone does!  Also, have fun." – Alexes Harris (B.A., Sociology), University of Washington Presidential Term Professor, Professor of Sociology; Faculty Regent to the University of Washington Board of Regents; and UW Faculty Athletics Representative

    10/25/2023 | College of Arts & Sciences
  • Kay Tomita Hashimoto on campus when she was a student at the UW in the late 40s-early 50s

    Kay Tomita Hashimoto's First-Generation Story Remembered

    Kay was and remains the ultimate role model for all of her children. Making her way through four years at the UW, graduating, and finding work in journalism in the late 40s and early 50s, only a few years after the end of WWII, were huge accomplishments and showed a lot of grit and determination. For her kids, what was most inspiring was that she never complained about the hurdles she encountered, but faced each day with positive focus.

    10/19/2023 | College of Arts & Sciences
  • Andrea Woody at graduation.

    I am First-Generation: Andrea Woody

    "You belong here. This place will change you and you will change it. I belong here, too, and I am forever grateful for the ways I’ve been changed by the students, staff, and faculty in my part of the UW community." - Andrea Woody, Divisional Dean of the Social Sciences

    10/19/2023 | College of Arts & Sciences
View All First-Generation Stories

The First-Generation College Celebration Continued!

Have a First-Gen Story to tell? Fill out this form.