Washington State University has been selected as a First Forward Institution for its dedication to serving first‑generation college students.

WSU joins the inaugural cohort of 80 universities and colleges across the nation selected by the Center for First‑Generation Student Success, an initiative of the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) and The Suder Foundation.

WSU and the University of Washington are the only institutions in Washington to receive the designation.

“Being named a First Forward institution recognizes the foundational work we have done at WSU to support first‑generation students,” said Lucila Loera, executive director of the Office for Access and Opportunity under the Student Engagement pillar in the Division of Student Affairs. “It also gives us a push to explore where we can go in the future as we continually strive to improve and be innovative in meeting the needs of first‑generation students.”

A community of professionals

Sarah E. Whitley, senior director for the Center for First‑generation Student Success, is pleased to welcome WSU to the inaugural cohort of institutions.

“Through the application process, it was evident that WSU 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,” Whitley said.

A key benefit of being selected is being able to engage with a broad cohort of peer universities that are willing to consult on challenges and celebrate program successes. Institutions also will be offered professional development that strengthens the campus knowledge base and are encouraged to develop a blog for the Center’s website.

“First Forward is an exciting opportunity for WSU 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,” NASPA president Kevin Kruger said. “We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the First Forward cohort and know WSU will be a significant contributor.”
Center for First-Generation Student Success First Forward Institution.

A strong contender

TRIO Student Support Services Program Director Angie Klimko led the preparation of WSU’s application, feeling confident it would be a strong contender.

WSU has been focused on serving first‑generation students for over 20 years through TRIO programs such as Upward Bound, Student Support Services and McNair, along with others like Multicultural Student Service’s Smart Start, College Assistance Migrant Program and First Scholars.

The university has been a leader in experimenting with new and creative ways to help first‑generation students. Examples include having established a living and learning community for first‑generation students called Lead the Legacy, hosting a first‑generation conference to share best practices in serving them, implementing the “I was first, too!” button campaign, and creating the First‑Generation Study Abroad Program, which is sending 25 students to Seville, Spain this summer.

WSU also has a long‑standing partnership with the Suder Foundation, which helped establish the First Scholars Program on the Pullman campus as part of the early cohort of universities. WSU President Kirk Schulz is a member of the board of directors for NASPA’s Center for First‑Generation Student Success.

“I’m thrilled about WSU becoming a First Forward institution,” Klimko said. “While we have served first‑generation students for a while, I think it’s going to bring a lot of innovative ideas to our community and will help create more awareness of this important population.”

Klimko and a member of her team will meet leaders from the other First Forward Institutions at a mandatory workshop on June 15 in Orlando, Florida.