KSU Tabbed First-Gen Student Success Role Model

Kansas State University is among nine institutions that will lead others in developing programs nationally that help first-generation college students succeed.

The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, or NASPA, and The Suder Foundation, has invited Kansas State University to serve on its inaugural First Forward advisory board. The board will help the other 80 inaugural First Forward cohort universities across the nation improve experiences and advance outcomes for first-generation students.

Institutions may apply for the First Forward designation. After two years in the program, they may apply to serve on the advisory board, where they mentor other institutions and facilitate discussions about best practices regarding first-generation student success. Kansas State University was selected to be among the inaugural advisory board because of its many successful existing programs.

“Through the application process, it was evident that K-State 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.

The university opened its Office for First-generation Students in June 2018 to support students who do not have any college graduates in their family. The office connects those students to campus resources and coordinates university efforts to foster a first-generation community of peers and faculty.

“Regardless of their background, all students should have the opportunity to seek an education and develop the skills to have a successful career,” said Charles Taber, provost and executive vice president. “Helping first-generation students navigate the college process successfully is at the heart of what K-Staters do as the nation’s first operational land-grant university.”

The university also launched the initiative, Improving the Graduation and Persistence Rates of First-Generation Students, to become a national model for all first-generation student success. The initiative has helped build a mentoring network, increase the number of students enrolled in learning communities, developed recruitment materials for first-generation students and identified entry-level classes that help with retention and student engagement.

“We want to be the university of choice for first-generation students in Kansas and beyond,” said Stephanie Bannister, assistant vice president for student life. “As part of the First Forward initiative with NASPA, K-State will work with peer institutions across the country to develop programs and become a national leader for first-generation student success.”

The First Forward Institution designation will give faculty and staff access to professional development opportunities, community-building experiences and the center’s research and resources. One of the benefits now available to K-Staters is the opportunity to attend the First Forward Workshop on June 15 in Orlando. These opportunities are provided to further strengthen university efforts that ultimately help first-generation students at Kansas State University and nationwide.