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Sunday, May 26, 2019

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University receives First Forward designation; national honor for commitment to first-generation student success


Ohio University has been selected to the inaugural cohort of First Forward Institutions by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation. The First 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. Ohio University is one of only two universities in Ohio to be selected as part of this initiative.

First-generation students represent one-third of Ohio University’s student population. The OHIO First Scholars and the College Achievement Program are both housed in University College and provide direct support to OHIO’s first-generation students to help them succeed in completing their degrees.

“Supporting first-generation students is one of the most important things we can do,” said University College Dean Elizabeth Sayrs. “Research shows that those who earn a college degree are both better off financially and have higher job and life satisfaction, and that their children are more likely to attend college themselves. Supporting the unique strengths of first-generation students through to degree completion can change the student’s life, their family’s life, and the community.”

The TRIO/Student Support Services Program, better known as the College Achievement Program (CAP) at Ohio University, has provided specialized support services to first-generation and other select students for the past 30 years. The OHIO First Scholars Program launched in 2015 with the mission to support the success, persistence and engagement of OHIO’s first-generation college students, while also serving as a resource to the larger university community on first-generation students.

“The Center is so pleased to welcome Ohio University into our inaugural cohort of First Forward institutions. Through the application process, it was evident that Ohio University 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 Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success.

 “At Ohio University we are working collaboratively to support the needs, and celebrate the successes, of our first-generation students, but we know there is still work to be done,” said Angela Lash, director of the OHIO First Scholars Program. “I’m proud that OHIO has been selected for this opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from across the nation to better serve first-gen students on our campuses.”

Through the OHIO First Scholars Program and the College Achievement Program (TRIO/CAP), first-generation students can access supplemental academic advising, mentoring, free tutoring, a dedicated student organization, a specialized seminar course, and more.

“Supportive programing for our first-generation students creates positive change on our campus, in our communities and our country,” said Tammy Tucker, director of Ohio University’s TRIO College Achievement Program. “Through the collaborative efforts of the OHIO First Scholars Program and TRIO College Achievement Program, Ohio University helps students persist and succeed through college and beyond.”

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 Ohio University 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 Ohio University will be a significant contributor,” offered Dr. Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA.