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Washburn University’s Commitment to First-generation Students Honored Nationally with First Forward Designation

05/01/19 11:05 am CDT
"These partnerships help first-generation students see others who made it through college, specifically Washburn"

     Topeka, Kan. – The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) and The Suder Foundation, named Washburn University as a First Forward institution. The First Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education that have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students.

     “The Center is so pleased to welcome Washburn University into our inaugural cohort of First Forward institutions. Through the application process, it was evident that Washburn 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 Washburn, we are truly passionate about the success of each of our students but we recognize that a student who is the first in their family to attend college often faces additional challenges,” said Dr. Alan Bearman, dean of University Libraries and the Center for Student Success and Retention. “That is why we have initiatives in place, like the Ichabod Success Institute and the First-Generation Mentoring Program - to help our first-generation students.”

     Washburn University considers a student a first-generation college student if neither of his or her parents/legal guardians completed a bachelor’s degree, regardless of siblings and other relatives. The university provides a First-Generation Retention Specialist to work directly with these students to ensure they understand the college environment, as well as how to locate and use all available resources. Some of these resources include the First-Generation Mentoring Program that pairs students with college graduates in and around Topeka.

      “These partnerships help first-generation students see others who made it through college, specifically Washburn,” said Mario Porras, Washburn University first-generation retention specialist. “They are also paired per their professional interest, so they get real-world advice from someone working in a field they hope to be in one day.”

     Another resource is the Ichabod Success Institute, which prepares first-time direct-from-high school students for the academic rigor of and successful transition into Washburn University. The Institute begins with a five-week residential program each July and support continues across a student’s first two years at Washburn, leading to an associate’s degree. The Institute seeks to recruit students from underrepresented groups (including, but not limited to: African-American, Latino, Native-American, First-Generation and Low-Income students) to promote their success within the university.

    “Washburn University strives to meet the needs of all students. It is an honor to receive this national recognition, alongside so many other phenomenal institutions, for making first-generation student success a priority in our community of learning,” said James Barraclough, director of undergraduate initiatives.

     “As a First Forward Institution, Washburn can engage with peers at other institutions who are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students,” said Dr. Eric Grospitch, Washburn University vice president of student life. “This allows Washburn to learn best practices at other universities, always pushing ourselves to be better for our students.”

     “First Forward is an exciting opportunity for Washburn 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 Washburn University will be a significant contributor,” offered Dr. Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA.



Editor’s Notes

NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education 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 8 U.S. territories. Visit naspa.org for more information.

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. Through four strategic priority areas, the Center drives higher education innovation and advocacy for first-generation student success.


Washburn University
Joy Bailes, (785) 670-2153
Assistant Director of University Relations
(785) 230-1648 (cell)

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