The national honor recognizes institutions of higher education that have demonstrated a commitment to first-generation student success.
Texas Tech University has been selected by the Center for First-generation Student Success as a First Forward Institution for its commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. The center is an initiative of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) and The Suder Foundation, which works to improve the graduation rate of first-generation college students and prepare each scholar for a life with self-awareness, success and significance.
"The center is pleased to welcome Texas Tech University into our inaugural cohort of First Forward Institutions," said Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success. "Through the application process, it was evident that Texas Tech is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students, but also is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies for significant scaling and important advances in the future."
Texas Tech joins other institutions as part of the initial cohort of 80 First Forward Institutions, each receiving access to professional development, community-building experiences and a first look at the center's research and resources.
"While we are certainly proud of the many accolades and recognitions bestowed upon Texas Tech University, this is an accomplishment that allows us to look forward with great excitement about what will be possible as a member of the First Forward inaugural cohort," said Carol A. Sumner, vice president of the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DDEI). "It is a recognition that our dedicated community has demonstrated a commitment to first-generation students and speaks to the myriad possibilities when given the opportunity to engage with NASPA and other institutions to take greater steps to improve the college-going experiences of this critical and ever-growing student population."
Through First Generation Transition & Mentoring Programs, part of DDEI, Texas Tech offers programming, support and services to first- and second-year first-generation students, with a focus on improving the retention and success rates of these students. Students who participate in these programs have access to scholarships, academic workshops, professional networking and opportunities to give back through community service. They also benefit from interactions with peer coaches, weekly tutoring sessions and one-on-one guidance sessions with professional staff.
In 2018 and 2019, Texas Tech hosted the "I'm First-Gen" Summit, educating hundreds of area high school and college students and educators through presentations, panel discussions and a keynote address on the experiences of first-generation college students and the resources available to help them succeed at the post-secondary level.
The division also launched "Conversations with the Next Generation," a speaker series featuring first-generation students with unique backgrounds, passions and stories, to encourage other first-generation students and serve as examples of what success, despite hardships, can look like.
"Being accepted into the inaugural cohort for NASPA First Forward is an honor and opportunity to strengthen our commitment to first-generation students at Texas Tech," said Jade Silva Tovar, senior DDEI director. "Their success and graduation is important to Texas Tech. Our work in ensuring our students persist toward graduation is a collaborative campus effort. First Forward will challenge us to be a better program and a better institution, leading the nation in our dedication to students. We are excited to be a part of a national program and to collaborate across campus."
Since the university is now a First Forward Institution, select Texas Tech faculty and staff will have multiple opportunities to engage with peer and aspirational institutions creating similar environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students.
"First Forward is an exciting opportunity for Texas Tech 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," said Kevin Kruger, NASPA president. "We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the First Forward cohort and know Texas Tech will be a significant contributor."
Selected institutions will send representatives to the First Forward Workshop 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.
"We are excited and humbled by this opportunity which simultaneously challenges our university community while providing a recognition to first-generation students and their families that they are priority at Texas Tech and whatever their goals or dreams, from Texas Tech it is possible," Sumner said.
About NASPA and the Center for First-generation Student Success
NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, formerly the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators General Assembly, is the leading association for the advancement, health and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Its work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries and eight U.S. territories.
The Center for First-generation Student Success 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. The center drives higher education innovation and advocacy for first-generation student success through four strategic priority areas: connect and recognize; knowledge creation and evidence-based practices; innovation and scalable approaches; and thought leadership and advocacy.