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KU earns national recognition for 1st-generation student experience

Thursday, May 02, 2019

LAWRENCE — A national higher education organization has recognized the University of Kansas for the university’s commitment to first-generation students.

The Center for First-generation Student Success has named KU a “First Forward” institution, a designation that recognizes institutions of higher education for excellence in improving experiences and outcomes of first-generation college students.

KU is one of only 80 institutions to receive the First Forward designation. In addition to being publicly celebrated by the center, First Forward designees like KU receive professional development, community-building experiences and a first look at the center’s research and resources.

“The University of Kansas is committed to ensuring that first-generation students have access to a KU education and the support they need to make the most of their academic experience and earn their degree,” said DeAngela Burns-Wallace, vice provost for undergraduate studies. “We can be proud of the good work we have done in this space in recent years, and we appreciate that our peers in higher education have taken note. Of course, the most important thing is that we continue to develop new ways to recruit and enroll first-generation students and help them thrive at KU.”

In recent years, KU has undertaken a number of initiatives to improve first-generation student success and outcomes:

  • Hosting the First-Generation Open House, which provides a networking opportunity for first-generation students, staff and faculty.
  • Participation in the I Am First Too initiative as part of the national first-generation student celebration Nov. 8, 2018. This initiative aims to build a network and sense of pride among first-generation KU students through T-shirts, buttons, door tags and a social media campaign.
  • Creation of the I Am First Too poster, which honored 12 individuals at KU, including students, alumni, faculty and staff who have excelled as role models, trailblazers and advocates of first-generation student success.

These new efforts build on existing KU academic support programs such as the TRIO programs – which include TRIO SES, TRIO STEM, the McNair Scholars Program and others – and Hawk Link, which have supported first-generation students at KU for many years.

KU’s application process was headed by Susan Klusmeier in Undergraduate Studies with assistance from Gretchen Heasty and Irene Olivares in the TRIO office and Annise Richard from the Adidas Leadership Scholars Program.

The Center for First-generation Student Success is an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and the Suder Foundation.

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

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