This May, some of the newest alumni from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) received recognition not just for completing their program, but for accomplishing their academic goals of earning their degree as a first-generation college student.
UNO’s First Generation Guild was established in Fall 2019 to ensure first-generation students, which make up more than a third of all UNO undergraduate students, received support, resources, and guidance to reach their academic goals. Beginning in December 2019, the guild began to award special medallions alongside degrees to first-generation graduates as further recognition of their accomplishments.
When the university was prompted to move to virtual commencement ceremonies for May 2020, the First Generation Guild had to adapt to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To meet this challenge, rather than including the medallions along with their degree in the mail, leaders from the Guild provided students with an opportunity to return to campus and collect their medallion in person.
“When it was announced that commencement would be held virtually, we started thinking about how we can continue to recognize the achievements of our first-generation students who had reached the finish line,” said Shannon Teamer, director of the First-Generation Guild and senior director of Inclusion Programs and Services at UNO. “What better way than to give them the opportunity to return to the campus they’ve called home for the past few years and present them with a special medallion to commemorate their achievements.”
For two weekends after commencement, first-generation graduates could stop by campus to collect their medallion, receive congratulations from the First Generation Guild, and even take a few photos around campus or with Durango.
Medallions were distributed from a parking lot booth across from the Weitz CEC as a means to maintain social distancing. Hundreds of medallions were handed out over two weekends and even more were sent to those who requested to receive the medallion by mail.
Among UNO’s 15,000+ students, about four out of every ten UNO students are first-generation, meaning their parents did not graduate from a four-year institution. About 485 graduates who received their degrees in May were first-generation students.
First-generation graduates who received their degree in May 2020 but did not receive a medallion and would like to request one should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.