UNC Greensboro is among a cohort of academic institutions nationwide being recognized for their commitment to supporting first-generation students. UNCG joins 76 other institutions in the cohort and is one of three North Carolina universities to receive the designation this year.
By federal definition, a first-generation student is a student whose parent or guardian did not graduate from a four-year institution.
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.
“Now, in its second year, First-gen Forward institutions continue to lead the nation by their commitment to first-generation student success,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success. “The 2020-21 cohort consists of diverse institutions across the nation, and we are pleased to welcome UNC Greensboro for their long-term commitment and demonstrated strategies for scaling first-generation student initiatives.”
As a First-gen Forward Institution, select faculty and staff will be able to engage with peer and aspirational 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 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.
“We are very excited to be one of the few schools in the state of North Carolina with this designation, and we want prospective students to see our desire to serve them and help them to be successful,” said Kelli Thomas, coordinator for Residence Life, who started UNCG’s First G at the G program and leads it alongside Shelley Wald, associate dean of students. “This designation honors the work of so many staff, faculty, and other students that have given their time and efforts to promote and advocate for first-generation students at UNCG. It is our desire that this recognition from NASPA inspires more students to proudly identify as first-gen and encourages more support for the students in our community.”
UNCG strives to be a leader in maximizing student success, opportunity, and access and was recently ranked as the top university in North Carolina for social mobility by U.S. News & World Report. In the fall of 2019, 31% of UNCG students were first-generation, and 25% of those students were considered to be from low-income backgrounds. The University offers multiple programs, events, and aid to support these students. Below is a list of some of these offerings.
- This TRiO support program is designed to maximize academic performance for UNCG students who are first-generation students from modest income backgrounds, or who have a documented disability and demonstrate an academic need for services. Services include individual instruction in the development of academic skills; personalized academic counseling, financial aid literacy counseling, graduate/professional school guidance, and career coaching; and one-on-one tutoring in up to two courses each semester. The program is one of the longest-running programs of its kind in the nation. 211 students are in the program and 90% are first-generation.
- This federally funded TRiO program prepares undergraduate first-generation students from low-income backgrounds and students who are members of groups that are traditionally underrepresented in graduate studies for the pursuit of doctoral degrees. UNCG’s McNair Scholars Program has 49 total participants, with 33 being first-generation students.
- This is a week-long series of events in November to help first-generation students learn about campus resources and connect with each other, faculty, and staff. The goal of the week is to make the transition into college easier for first-generation students.
- As UNCG’s flagship student success program, it provides its participants a financial aid package that minimizes student debt, community learning experiences outside of the classroom, and personalized support though mentorship. This program works alongside its students to identify barriers to student success and develop innovative community-focused solutions. 75% of students in the program identify as first-generation.
“By being part of First G at UNCG, I am more aware of how first-generation students are impacted on college campuses and the amount of resources that are available to them,” said Kiara Hickman, president of the 1stG student organization.
Learn more about UNCG’s first-generation efforts at sa.uncg.edu/firstg.
Learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success at firstgen.naspa.org.
Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Jiyoung Park, University Communications