Western Receives First-gen Forward Designation; National Honor for Commitment to First-generation Student Success

The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation, recently announced the
2021-22 First-gen Forward cohort
and has awarded Western Washington University with the First-Gen Forward designation.

The First-Gen Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education who have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. Selected institutions receive professional development, community-building experiences, and a first look at the Center’s research and resources.

Western Washington University has a long history of supporting first generation students, particularly through the services and programs offered by the Student Outreach Services office and a 2 credit, self-selected course they teach to introduce students to the academic culture and to build on students’ skills to be successful at Western. More recent efforts include an expanded website presence featuring faculty and staff members who identify as first-generation, revising and implementing an orientation workshop for incoming students and their families, and hosting an annual First- Generation celebration in November. In collaboration with the Associated Students, a first-gen logo contest will also be launched in spring quarter.

 “The Center is so pleased to welcome Western Washington University into the 2021-22 First-Gen Forward cohort. Through the application process, it was evident that Western Washington University is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students but is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies that foster an environment of success for this important population,” said Sarah E. Whitley, assistant vice president, Center for First-generation Student Success.

“First-gen students and their families have a unique set of perspectives to bring to the college experience. We see this as a tremendous opportunity to build on our previous successes in this area, to expand our efforts across the university to support and learn from our first-gen students and their families, and to learn from our colleagues across the nation. We are very honored to have been selected to the 2021-22 First-Gen forward cohort," said Melynda Huskey, Western's vice president for Enrollment and Student Services.

As a First-Gen Forward Institution, interested faculty and staff will be afforded multiple opportunities to engage with peer institutions who are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students. Selected institutions will send representatives to the First-gen Forward Workshop slated for early-June and will participate in monthly phone calls, virtual professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting, and more. After two successful years in the program, institutions are eligible to apply for the Advisory leadership designation.

“With the addition of the 2021-22 cohort, First-Gen Forward Institutions contribute to a national movement of two- and four-year institutions dedicated to advancing the success of first-generation students; redefining student success as a movement. We commend Western Washington University for their leadership and look forward to witnessing continued progress throughout their participation,” said Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA.

To learn more about first-generation efforts at Western Washington University, visit https://wp.wwu.edu/sos/.  To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit firstgen.naspa.org.