Over the past several years, the University of Georgia has launched programs and created opportunities to support the success of first-generation students through partnerships between the Office of Instruction and the Division of Student Affairs. Now UGA is being honored for its commitment through selection in the inaugural cohort of 80 First Forward Institutions by NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
Developed by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and The Suder Foundation, the First Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education committed 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.
Last fall, the Office of Academic Advising Services received funding from the President’s New Approaches in Diversity program to launch 1st at the First, a holistic effort to serve the first-generation students at UGA, the birthplace of public higher education in America. The 1st at the First Leadership Institute provides opportunities for students to meet other first-generation students while developing their leadership and professional skills. The inaugural cohort graduates from the institute this May and will become 1st at the First Ambassadors for the next cohort of UGA first-generation students.
“The University of Georgia has long supported our first-generation students through academic and student life programming,” said Associate Vice President for Instruction Naomi Norman. “Realizing the critical importance of supporting our first-generation students before they set foot on campus, we have ramped up our efforts in the last two years to ensure they don’t just succeed in their first year, but to prepare them for their entire college career and beyond.”
Other first-generation resources at UGA include the First Generation Handbook, which includes information about how college works and what to expect at UGA, as well as a dictionary of the vocabulary of higher education, an overview of the critical resources on campus and a preview of some of the changes students may experience as they transition from home to UGA. The handbook is also available in English, Spanish, Korean and Chinese for students’ families and supporters.
Programs in UGA’s Division of Academic Enhancement (DAE) advance the success of first-generation students. Some of these include Early Start | Early Success, an opportunity for first-generation students to start their college career early by becoming part of TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) and attending the Freshman College Summer Experience, a transformative four-week academic residential program for a diverse community of first-year students. In addition, the DAE offers first-gen and other students a variety of resources, including course tutoring, study pods, academic coaching, innovative UNIV courses that assist first-year students with the transition from high school into higher education, student success workshops, and networking opportunities. Several scholars programs like the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship program and the ALL Georgia program serve as integrated networks of support for underserved students from their first year to degree completion.
“The Center is so pleased to welcome the University of Georgia into our inaugural cohort of First Forward institutions. Through the application process, it was evident that UGA is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students, but is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies for significant scaling and important advances in the future,” said Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success.
As a First Forward Institution, select faculty and staff will be afforded multiple opportunities to engage with peer and aspirational institutions who are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students. Selected institutions will send representatives to the First Forward Workshop to be held in Orlando in 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.
“First Forward is an exciting opportunity for the University of Georgia to join an elite community of professionals prepared to share evidence-based practices and resources, troubleshoot challenges, generate knowledge, and continue to advance the success of first-generation students across the country. We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the First Forward cohort and know UGA will be a significant contributor,” offered Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA.
NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Its work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy, and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries, and 8 U.S. territories. Visit naspa.org for more information.
The Center for First-generation Student Success is the premier source of evidence-based practices, professional development, and knowledge creation for the higher education community to advance the success of first-generation students. Through four strategic priority areas, the Center drives higher education innovation and advocacy for first-generation student success.