The First Gen Celebration will be celebrated at Illinois State University, November 1-5. The celebration honors First Generation Week, a campus-wide tribute to the often-unsung contributions and achievements of students, faculty, staff, and alumni who were the first in their families to enter higher education.  

All events are free, though RSVPs are required for several events. Those interested can register on Redbird Life

Illinois State University’s third annual Campus-Wide weeklong celebration will highlight the social and cultural capital first-generation students bring to the campus environment. “This is shifting the narrative to an asset-based approach that provides equitable access and opportunity that is not rooted in oppression,” said Dr. Shatoya Black, director of TRIO. “First-generation students are or will be the first in their family to complete a bachelor’s degree but not the first to succeed.”

ISU first-generation professionals and students can sign up to be a part of the listserv to stay connected to the community and future events, programs, and opportunities.

You are considered first-generation if your parent/guardian has not completed a bachelor’s degree.

image of Joshua Fredenburg
Dr. Joshua Fredenburg. Image from

Monday, November 1 
The celebration will kick-off with a breakfast in the Brown Ballroom featuring Dr. Joshua Fredenburg. Founder and president of the Circle of Change Leadership Experience, Fredenburg’s work has been honored by the NASPA (Student Affair Professionals in Higher Education) Student Leadership Programs Knowledge Community as a “Top Student Leadership Development Program.” Register on Redbird Life.  

Tuesday, November 2  
The Tea@3 First-Generation Student Speed Networking will be at 3 p.m. at the Student Involvement Center in the Bone Student Center. Networking will be done by major, so registration will assist with connecting students with those in fellow majors. Register on Redbird Life.   

Chef Ken Myszka
Chef Ken Myszka. Image from

Wednesday, November 3 
The Dress to Impress for Your Idea of Success dinner will be at 5 p.m. at Epiphany Farms, 220 E. Front St. in Bloomington. The dinner will feature Ken Myszka, owner of Epiphany Farms. A first-generation student, farmer, chef, and restaurant owner, Myszka will discuss his journey and the unique ways he shifted and took ownership of his narrative. Register on Redbird Life.  

Thursday, November 4

A First-Gen Lunch and Learn will take place at Bloomington High School.

A Wellness Game Night will be from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Prairie Rooms of the Bone Student Center. This event is hosted by First-Generation Redbirds, a registered student organization.

Friday, November 5 
Two sessions of Leadership Launch will be from 10:30 a.m.-noon and again from 1:30-3 p.m. in Turner Hall, room 206. Leadership Launch, sponsored by LEAD and CAST Connections, is a leadership jumpstart experience designed to give participants an opportunity to launch their leadership journey at Illinois State in an innovative and exciting way.  

Events throughout the week are sponsored by Illinois State’s Enrollment Management and Academic Services; First Gen Redbirds (a registered student organization); TRIO/Student Support Services, University College; LEAD, a unit in Dean of Students Office; and CAST Connections from the College of Applied Science and Technology.

November 8 commemorates the day Congress approved the Higher Education Act (HEA) in 1965. The HEA was intended to ensure equal opportunities for underprivileged students to attend college by providing federal grants and loans to help finance the cost of a college education. This legislation made critical investments in institutions and funded programs to increase the access, retention, and graduation of first-generation, low-income students. November 8, 2020 marked the 55th anniversary of the signing of the HEA. Since its passage, millions of first-generation, low-income/under-resources students have been helped along their path to completing college degrees by programs created by the act.

First Gen Celebration poster. All text can be found at