Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The University of Iowa has been chosen to participate in the 2019–20 inaugural First Forward cohort by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and the Suder Foundation.

The Iowa Edge is an exciting program for selected African American, Alaskan Native, American Indian, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Latino/a, and first-generation college students.
The Iowa Edge is an exciting program for selected African American, Alaskan Native, American Indian, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Latino/a, and first-generation college students. Photo by Justin Torner.

The First Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education that have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes for first-generation college students. Selected institutions receive professional-development support, community-building experiences, and access to the center’s research and resources.

The UI was selected through an application process. Benefits of this designation will provide framework to advance the UI’s 1stGen@Iowa initiative and assist the development of other efforts to support and celebrate first-generation students.

The University of Iowa has been committed to first-generation student success for decades, as evidenced by long-standing TRiO programs (Upward Bound has been on campus since the 1960s and Student Support Services since the 1970s). In addition, the first-generation student organization and the First-Generation Living-Learning Community have existed in different iterations for several years. Numerous offices and organizations, such as Student Financial Aid, the Center for Diversity and Enrichment, UI Student Government, the UI First-Generation Task Force, and several colleges on campus also make assisting first-generation students common practice in their work. In addition, the UI hosts the "I'm the First" First Generation Summit, which is the first of its kind in the state. Run by students, the summit seeks to increase support and outreach for first-generation students on the UI campus. 

The recent development and implementation of multiple large scale, campuswide student success and strategic planning efforts have sparked a renewed interest to better serve first-generation students. As the UI moves forward with creating an even more supportive and inclusive environment for first-generation students, more targeted approaches are needed to provide structure and guidance to these efforts. Participation in NASPA’s First Forward initiative will contribute to this endeavor and play a key role in developing these institutional initiatives. 

“The University of Iowa will also now be recognized as a national leader in first-generation student success and eventually have the opportunity to serve as a mentor for other institutions,” says Angie Lamb, assistant director of academic support and retention. 

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. 

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

Selected institutions will send representatives to the First Forward Workshop to be held in Orlando, Florida, 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.