KOKOMO, Ind. — The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and The Suder Foundation, recently announced Indiana University Kokomo as one of 76 new members of the First Scholars Network for 2023 to 2024. To be selected as a First Scholars Network member, the campus displayed a demonstrated commitment to improving experiences and advancing success for first-generation college students.
Chancellor Mark Canada noted that about 34 percent of IU Kokomo’s students are first-generation college students, meaning their parents did not complete a four-year college or university degree. About a third of the faculty are also first-generation students and can empathize with the challenges they face.
“The First Scholars Network is an excellent fit for IU Kokomo, where we strive to support our first-generation students, who make up a sizeable portion of our student body,” he said. “As a first-generation college student myself, I understand the kinds of challenges these students face.”
Tess Barker, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management, also was pleased by the selection.
“IU Kokomo has an existing commitment to supporting all of our students, but we recognize that first-generation college students may face challenges unique to their situation,” she said. “Our involvement in the First Scholars Network will help expand and accelerate the ways IU Kokomo increases access for students to education, career, and life success.”
Powered by the Center for First-generation Student Success, the First Scholars Network is a four-phase approach that allows institutions of higher education to advance student success by establishing communities of practice, gaining knowledge of resources, and building peer networks. More than 350 institutions of higher education have entered the network, representing 49 states and the District of Columbia.
“The Center is pleased to welcome IU Kokomo into the First Scholars Network,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, vice president with the Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through the application process, it was evident that the campus 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.”
In this first phase, selected institutions participated in the June 2 First Scholars Network virtual kick-off. As a network member, faculty and staff are afforded opportunities to engage with peer institutions also working to create environments that improve the experiences and success of first-generation students, and will participate in monthly calls, professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting, and more.
After successful completion of the network member phase, institutions progress to the second phase, First-gen Forward, after which it is eligible to become a First Scholars Institution. First Scholars is the third phase and serves as the Center’s customized approach to intentional transformation to advance student outcomes. Ultimately, all network institutions strive for national leadership as a First Scholars Champion Campus.
“Being named as a network member of the First Scholars Network is an exciting opportunity for IU Kokomo 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,” said Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA. “We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the Class of 2023 network members and know IU Kokomo will be a significant contributor.”