The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation, this year announced its 2020-21 cohort of First-gen Forward Institutions, including Presbyterian College.
The First-gen Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education who have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students.
Selected institutions receive professional development, community-building experiences, and a first look at the center’s research and resources.
“It was really exciting when we learned PC earned this designation,” said Dr. Amy Davis, director of Academic Success and Retention. The Academic Success office is the hub for the College’s first-generation programming, Presby First+.
“With this, the College has access to schools that are doing cutting-edge research and evidence-based practices on first-gen success,” Davis said. “There’s some professional development, and then also, the recognition of being a First-gen Forward institution I thought would be something great for PC, and something we could build upon.”
“I saw this as an opportunity to create a niche program for our students and be something unique as a private college in South Carolina.”
Presby First+ provides on-campus events and programming for first-gen students and supports them through a network of peers, faculty, and staff advocates and mentors.
Each year, at least one academic workshop is provided to faculty regarding best practices for teaching and supporting first-gen students. There are also new student orientation sessions for first-gen students and families.
In January, the College brought on Stephanie Keene, associate director of Academic Success and Presby First+ coordinator. Keene, who comes to PC from the University of Texas at San Antonio, was a first-gen student herself and feels passionate about the College’s programming.
Before the pandemic, Keene accompanied students for an off-campus cultural event to see Les Misérables at the Peace Center in Greenville. Keene has remained connected with students during the remote learning period and is currently planning for fall.
“The Center is so pleased to welcome PC into the 2020-21 cohort of First-gen Forward institutions,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through the application process, it was evident that PC 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.”
The name of the Presby First+ program, Keene says, is essential to ensure its inclusivity for all first-gen students from different racial, economic, gender and other backgrounds.
“The plus is very important because many students, particularly first-generation students, have those intersectional identities,” she said. “I want to empower our students, and I want them to represent themselves and be proud that they are first-gen.”
As a First-gen Forward Institution, select PC 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.
After two successful years in the program, institutions are eligible to apply for the advisory leadership designation.
“First-gen Forward is an exciting opportunity for PC 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 Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA. “We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the First-gen Forward cohort and know PC will be a significant contributor.”
To learn more about first-generation efforts at PC, please visit the Presby First+ page on the PC website. To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit firstgen.naspa.org.