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Georgia Southern University receives ‘First-gen Forward’ designation, a national honor for commitment to first-generation student success

Georgia Southern University has been named a “First-Gen Forward” institution for its commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. 

The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and The Suder Foundation, selected Georgia Southern for the designation. 

“I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the team that has brought this prestigious honor to the University,” said Leslie Harris, director of Georgia Southern’s Student Support Services office. “Through the many services that are offered here, we have seen how successful students can be when we can ensure our support is tailored specifically to their needs. It’s great to have recognition from NASPA that we are being successful with our efforts.”

Approximately 37% of Georgia Southern’s students are first-generation college students, meaning they are the first in their immediate family to attend college. These students often need additional support to aid them in being successful in their overall college experience.  

Georgia Southern serves and supports first-generation students in many ways, including:

  • Mentoring from Student Support Services and TRIO-Armstrong.
  • Scheduling networking events as well as life- and college-skills workshops.  
  • Partnering with the Office of Alumni Relations to identify first-generation alumni and provide resources to first-gen students.
  • Developing intentional partnerships with other offices on campus.

Georgia Southern celebrates National First-Generation College Celebration Week annually by highlighting first-generation faculty staff and students. Celebration activities are also shared with the University community via email and through a video featuring President Marrero that is housed on the University’s First-Gen Celebration page. Staff also have created a listserv of approximately 150 first-generation faculty and staff across all its campuses that are used to market first-gen events and to address the needs of first-gen students.

As a First-gen Forward institution, interested faculty and staff will be afforded multiple opportunities to engage with peer institutions that 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 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. 

“The Center is pleased to welcome Georgia Southern University into the 2022-23 First-gen Forward cohort,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, assistant vice president, Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through the application process, it was evident that Georgia Southern 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.” 

The Center 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. Based in Washington, DC, the Center aims to acknowledge the intersectional experiences of first-generation college students. It offers an outlet for sharing cutting-edge research and current media conversations, opportunities for engagement through online learning, conferences, and events, and access to a bevy of programs and services intended to improve first-generation initiatives across higher education.

NASPA is a member-centered association supporting a diverse and passionate network of 15,000 professionals and 1,200 institutions across the globe. It is the professional home for the field of student affairs and is dedicated to cultivating student success in collaboration with the missions of its institutional members—a network of colleges and universities representing every sector of higher education.


Posted in Press Releases