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EKU is widely known as a school of opportunity with extensive resources for first-generation students. As a result of those efforts, the university was recently named a First-gen Forward institution by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and The Suder Foundation. 

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.

“The Center is so pleased to welcome EKU into the 2020-21 cohort of First-gen Forward institutions. Through the application process, it was evident that EKU 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,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success.

EKU offers several programs that serve first-generation students, such as NOVA Student Support Services, the Ronald McNair Scholars program, Educational Talent Search and Upward Bound. The university also hosted the state’s first-ever conference focused on first-generation student success in November, the Gen 1 Conference, and maintains a Gen 1 Taskforce that targets policies and processes that present barriers to first generation students. First-generation students at EKU are also eligible for the Trailblazer scholarship and to take advantage of the First Colonels living learning community. 

“This is a great opportunity for us to learn from and alongside other institutions with a focus similar to ours,” said Gil Hunter, executive director of retention and graduation. “This recognition is consistent with our mission and attributable to our student-first support.”

As a First-gen Forward Institution, select 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. 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.

“The 2020-21 First-gen Forward cohort demonstrates a national movement of two- and four-year institutions dedicated to advancing the success of first-generation students; redefining student success as a movement. We commend EKU for their already strong contribution and look forward to engaging more at the First-gen Forward Workshop and throughout their participation,” offered Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA.

To learn more about first-generation efforts at EKU, contact Gill Hunter at