First Scholars Network recognizes WKU's commitment to first-generation students
- WKU News
- Monday, June 12th, 2023
The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and The Suder Foundation, recently announced Western Kentucky University as one of 76 new members of the First Scholars Network for 2023-24. To be selected as a First Scholars Network member, WKU displayed a demonstrated commitment to improving experiences and advancing success for first-generation college students.
“Since approximately a third of the WKU student body consists of first-gen students it's clear that WKU has long been a destination for students who are first in their family to attain a college degree,” said Dr. Marko Dumančić, Assistant Provost for Faculty Development and Student Success and Director for the Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning (CITL).
“In the past 18 months, WKU's faculty, staff, alumni, and first-gen student ambassadors have both created new programming as well as formalized existing resources that support our remarkable first-gen students. Participating in the First Scholars Network will help us build on a solid foundation that's emerged as a result of efforts across campus,” he said.
Dr. Dumančić and Cierra Waller, CITL Associate Director for Student Success, will lead primary engagement with the First Scholars Network with Provost Robert “Bud” Fischer serving as the cabinet-level leader.
“Each First Scholars Network Member was asked to develop an institutional leadership team to manage first-gen priorities,” Waller said. “At WKU, we’ve worked to develop a First Gen collaborative of unit leaders from academic and student support offices with a vested interest and joint mission to elevate first generation student success on our campus to serve as our leadership team.”
Other members of the WKU First Gen collaborative leadership team that will lead the charge in carrying out the mission of the First Scholars Network are: Destiny O’Rourke, Director of WKU Student Support Services; Sarah Haught, Assistant Director for Recruitment and Retention; Dr. Cres’Sena Thomas, Associate Director of Intercultural Student Engagement Center; Adrianne Browning, Gordon Ford College of Business Professional Development Specialist and Career Coach; and Dr. Dawn Winters, Director of College of Education and Behavioral Sciences Student Success Center.
"Western Kentucky University is committed to student success, especially first-generation student success,” Provost Fischer said. “The association with the First Scholars Network will allow us to share our successes in serving first-generation college students while learning new and innovative practices from partner institutions in the First Scholars Network that we can employ on campus to continue to promote student achievement."
Powered by the Center for First-generation Student Success, the First Scholars Network is a four-phase approach that allows institutions of higher education to advance student success through establishing communities of practice, gaining knowledge of resources, and establishing peer networks. More than 350 institutions of higher education have entered the Network, representing 49 states and the District of Columbia.
“The Center is pleased to welcome Western Kentucky University into the First Scholars Network,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, vice president with the Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through the application process, it was evident that Western Kentucky University 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.”
In this first phase of the First Scholars Network, selected institutions participated in the First Scholars Network Virtual Kick-off on June 2. As a Network Member, interested faculty and staff are afforded opportunities to engage with peer institutions also working to create environments that improve the experiences and success of first-generation students, and will participate in monthly calls, professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting, and more.
After successful completion of the Network Member phase, institutions progress to the second phase, First-gen Forward, after which it is eligible to become a First Scholars Institution. First Scholars is the third phase of the First Scholars Network and serves as the Center’s customized approach to intentional institutional transformation in an effort to advance student outcomes. Ultimately, all Network institutions strive for national leadership as a First Scholars Champion Campus.
“Being named as a Network Member of the First Scholars Network is an exciting opportunity for Western Kentucky University to join a dedicated 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 Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA. “We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the Class of 2023 Network Members and know Western Kentucky University will be a significant contributor.”
To learn more about first-generation resources at WKU, contact Cierra Waller at (270) 745-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About The Center for First-Generation Student Success: The Center is transforming higher education to drive first-generation student success effectively and equitably across education, career, and life. We provide data, training, and expertise for a growing network of colleges and universities around the country to scale and sustain the important work of serving first-generation students. 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. To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit firstgen.naspa.org or contact Bill Barker at email@example.com
About NASPA: 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.
Western Kentucky University prides itself on positioning its students, faculty and staff for long term success. As a student-centered, applied research university, WKU helps students expand on classroom learning by integrating education with real-world applications in the communities we serve. Our hilltop campus is located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which was recently named by Reader’s Digest as one of the nicest towns in America, just an hour’s drive from Nashville, Tennessee.