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The University of Iowa is moving First-Gen Forward... working to become the institution of choice for first-generation students in the state of Iowa.

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First-Gen Forward Designation

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.

Our First-Gen Forward Goal Plan

Participation in the First-Gen Forward program required a team of faculty and staff and UI administrators to develop a goal plan that will further advance our mission to better support first-generation students and close completion gaps that exist between them and their peers. This goal plan, which includes measurable outcomes, indicators of success, action steps, a timeline, potential barriers and solutions, and identified campus partners, is summarized below.

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

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Starting Point: Defining 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 implementation team's work as we move forward in the First-Gen Forward Goal Plan.

Goal Plan

First-Gen Forward Goal Plan

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Goal 1: Increased sense of belonging

Increased sense of belonging among first-generation students at the University of Iowa by becoming an institution that is student-ready.

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Goal 2: Establish a centralized network

Establish a centralized network of support and consistent messaging for first-generation students. 

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Goal 3: Better identification methods

Better identification methods for first-generation students in institutional academic systems.

Meet the UI First-Gen Forward Leadership Teams

First-Gen Forward Executive Leadership Team

Angie Lamb

Angela Lamb, M.A.

Academic Support and Retention

Associate Director


Mirra Anson, Ph.D.

Office of the Provost

Director, Student Academic Success & Strategic Initiatives 

Danielle Martinez

Danielle Martinez, M.S.

Academic Support and Retention

Director, Student Success

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Jennifer Lynch

Jennifer Lynch

TRIO Student Support Services

Project Director

Shaun Vecera

Shaun Vecera, Ph.D.

University of Iowa Honors Program

UI Honors Program

Professor & Herman J. and Eileen S. Schmidt Chair,
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences


First-Gen Forward Implementation Team

The First-Gen Forward Implementation Team works with the First-Gen Forward Executive Leadership team to develop implementation plans for the University of Iowa's First-Gen Forward goal plan.

The goal of the group's work is to contribute to structural, ongoing, and systemic change with meaningful, measurable outcomes that positively impact first-generation student persistence and completion rates at the University of Iowa. Outcomes of the team's efforts align with current institutional initiatives and strategic plans, and will ultimately result in meeting the primary First-Gen Forward goal of becoming the institution of choice for first-generation students in the state of Iowa.

Convened by:

Tanya Uden-Holman, Ph.D.
Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education

Angie Reams, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President and Dean of Students

Angie Lamb Academic Support and Retention
Danielle Martinez Academic Support and Retention
James Ankrum Biomedical Engineering
Jennifer Lynch TRIO Student Support Services
Kelsey Ryder Office of Student Financial Aid
Maria Bruno Division of Student Life
Mirra Anson Office of the Provost
Shaun Vecera UI Honors Program