How will the University of Iowa move First-Gen Forward?

By becoming the institution of choice for first-generation students in the state of Iowa.

On May 1, 2019, the NASPA Center for First-Generation Student Success announced that the University of Iowa had been chosen to participate in the 2019-2020 inaugural First-Gen Forward cohort. As a First-Gen Forward Institution, the University of Iowa joined 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’s commitment to student success was the impetus behind a joint initiative with The Suder Foundation to establish the Center for First-generation Student Success in June 2017. In continuing with the Center’s mission of being the premier source of evidence-based practices, professional development, and knowledge creation for the higher education community to advance the success of first-generation students, the Center launched First-Gen Forward, the nation's first recognition program acknowledging higher education institutions for their commitment to first-generation student success.

Participation in the First-Gen Forward program required a team of faculty and staff and UI administrators to develop an action plan that will further advance our mission to better support first-generation students and close completion gaps that exist between them and their peers. 

Read more in this Iowa Now article. (May 1, 2019)

Starting Point: How do we define a sense of belonging?

Sense of belonging involves an individual’s connection to a group or organization. It encompasses feeling cared about, accepted, respected, and valued by others (Strayhorn, 2019). At the University of Iowa, a sense of belonging is cultivated by everyone on campus including, faculty, staff, and student peers. It manifests through the desire and willingness to connect interpersonally, while respecting differences. These connections foster a sense of security and support an inclusive environment, allowing everyone to thrive individually and collectively and to better represent their authentic selves (Bruno, 2019).

This definition will guide much of this team's work as we move forward in the First-Gen Forward Goal Plan.

First-Gen Forward Goal Plan:

Each of the following goals include measurable outcomes, indicators of success, action steps, a timeline, potential barriers and solutions, and identified campus partners, 

  1. Increased sense of belonging among first-generation students at the University of Iowa by becoming a student-ready institution.
  2. Establish a centralized network of support and messaging for first-generation students. 
  3. Better identification methods for first-generation students in institutional academic systems