St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf named First-Gen Forward institution

Graphic of the First-Gen Forward logo recognition.
St. Olaf College has been named a First-Gen Forward institution.

St. Olaf College has been named a First-Gen Forward institution, a designation that recognizes institutions of higher education that have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes for first-generation college students.

The Center for First-Generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and The Suder Foundation, named St. Olaf to the 2021-22 cohort. Selected institutions receive professional development, community-building experiences, and a first look at the Center’s research and resources. 

“The Center is so pleased to welcome St. Olaf College into the 2021-22 First-Gen Forward cohort. Through the application process, it was evident that St. Olaf 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,” says Center for First-Generation Student Success Assistant Vice President Sarah Whitley. 

St. Olaf hosts several programs and efforts to support first-generation students. The TRIO McNair Scholars Program supports low-income and first-generation students in their pursuit of undergraduate research opportunities and graduate study, while TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) helps students overcome class, social, and cultural barriers to complete their undergraduate education.

The Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion sponsors the Connect for Success program, which connects first-generation first-year students with a support network of faculty, staff, and peer mentors. This effort, led by the Taylor Center’s Associate Director for Multicultural, Gender and Sexuality Jessica Cameron in partnership with many campus departments, provides students with access to rich, intentional programming throughout their journey at St. Olaf. In addition, St. Olaf was awarded a grant from the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) in 2020 to support a two-year program that includes advising and mentorship for first-generation and low-income students. 

“St. Olaf’s commitment to serving first-generation college students is strong. As an institution, we have strong TRIO programs, including over four grants serving this population. Grants have limits, and the college has been stepping up to serve the students who, due to space, could not be in TRIO. I only see this type of support growing as our student body continues to evolve,” Cameron says. “The First-Gen Forward designation is an honor but also a recognition that we have and continue to work hard to meet our first-gen students’ needs. The organization is trusting in us to continue this work and lead by example in the area of serving this population. The designation will allow for us to show communities that we are committed to this work and to the process of strengthening it!”

The First-Gen Forward designation is an honor but also a recognition that we have and continue to work hard to meet our first-gen students’ needs.Taylor Center Associate Director Jessica Cameron

As a First-Gen Forward Institution, interested faculty and staff at St. Olaf will be afforded multiple opportunities to engage with peer institutions who 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 slated for early 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. 

“First-Gen Forward is an exciting opportunity for St. Olaf 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. We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the First-Gen Forward cohort and know St. Olaf will be a significant contributor,” says NASPA President and CEO Kevin Kruger.