The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation, recently announced their 2020-21 cohort of First-gen Forward institutions, a group that includes Virginia Tech.

The First-gen Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education that 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.

“Now, in its second year, First-gen Forward institutions continue to lead the nation by their commitment to first-generation student success. The 2020-21 cohort consists of diverse institutions across the nation, and we are pleased to welcome Virginia Tech for their long-term commitment and demonstrated strategies for scaling first-generation student initiatives,” said Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success.

Virginia Tech’s first-generation initiative began in 2017, when first-generation students at Virginia Tech formed 1G@VT. First-Generation Student Support officially launched within the Dean of Students Office in August 2019, with the help of a generous donation from Paula Robichaud, a first-generation graduate of Virginia Tech.

“Our program has grown over a period of seven months to include a first-generation support group with Cook Counseling, a first-generation college institute for rising high school sophomores, first-generation student awareness efforts, a podcast, and an ally support group,” said Charmaine Troy, program director for First-Generation Student Support. Along with their current programs, First-Generation Student Support is also looking to develop a living-learning community and a peer mentoring program.

As a First-gen Forward Institution, select faculty and staff will be afforded multiple opportunities to engage with peer and aspirational institutions that are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students. Selected institutions will send representatives to the First-gen Forward Workshop to be held in Baltimore 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.

Virginia Tech’s goal is for underrepresented, first-generation, or lower-income students to comprise 40 percent of its student body by the year 2022.  For the upcoming class, Virginia Tech has offered admission to 2,642 first-generation students. The commitment to diverse and inclusive communities reflects not only the goals of First-Generation Student Support, but Virginia Tech and its community as a whole.

“As we continue to increase our underrepresented population at Virginia Tech that include our first-generation students, it is important that we strive to create the best climate for them and help them transition to campus life,” said Troy.

“First-gen Forward is an exciting opportunity for Virginia 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. We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the First-gen Forward cohort and know Virginia Tech will be a significant contributor,” said Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA.

To learn more about first-generation efforts at Virginia Tech, visit their website or contact Charmaine Troy at ctroy@vt.edu. To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit firstgen.naspa.org.