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SIUE recognized for commitment to first-generation college students

SIUE selected as a First Scholars Network member.

The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and The Suder Foundation, recently announced Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as one of seventy-six new members of the First Scholars Network for 2023-24. To be selected as a First Scholars Network member, SIUE displayed a demonstrated commitment to improving experiences and advancing success for first-generation college students.

“We are excited to be a member of NASPA’s First Scholars Network,” said Darryl Cherry, coordinator of student success. “Participation in the Network with help us to strengthen and scale our efforts to identify and support first-generation students. SIUE is committed to building and sustaining structural support to comprehensively, substantively, and equitable support for our first-generation students.”

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 through establishing communities of practice, gaining knowledge of resources, and establishing peer networks. More than 350 institutions of higher education have entered the Network, representing 49 states and the District of Columbia.

“Because of the shifting populations entering higher education institutions and SIUE’s commitment to retention efforts for our students, it only makes sense to be a part of a forward-thinking network of institutions focused on the same things,” said Lindy Wagner, assistant vice chancellor for Inclusive Excellence, Education and Development. “We have had first-generation efforts in the past, but now we have a chance to truly build something special at SIUE and have it built right into the structures of the institution. I am looking forward to gaining resources and support from this network and most excited what that means for our first-generation students here at SIUE.”

“The Center is pleased to welcome SIUE into the First Scholars Network,” said Sarah E. Whitley, Ph.D., vice president with the Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through the application process, it was evident that SIUE 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 of the First Scholars Network, selected institutions participated in the First Scholars Network Virtual Kick-off earlier this month. As a network member, interested 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 of the First Scholars Network and serves as the Center’s customized approach to intentional institutional transformation in an effort 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 SIUE 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 Kevin Kruger, Ph.D., president and CEO of NASPA. “We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the Class of 2023 Network Members and know SIUE will be a significant contributor.”

To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit

The Center for First-Generation Student Success is transforming higher education to drive first-generation student success effectively and equitably across education, career, and life. We provide data, training, and expertise for a growing network of colleges and universities around the country to scale and sustain the important work of serving first-generation students. The Center aims to acknowledge the intersectional experiences of first-generation college students. It offers an outlet for sharing cutting-edge research and current media conversations, opportunities for engagement through online learning, conferences, and events, and access to a bevy of programs and services intended to improve first-generation initiatives across higher education.

NASPA is a member-centered association supporting a diverse and passionate network of 15,000 professionals and 1,200 institutions across the globe. It is the professional home for the field of student affairs and is dedicated to cultivating student success in collaboration with the missions of its institutional members—a network of colleges and universities representing every sector of higher education.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville provides students with a high-quality education that powerfully transforms the lives of all individuals who seek something greater. A premier metropolitan university, SIUE is creating social and economic mobility for individuals while also powering the workforce of the future. Built on the foundation of a broad-based liberal education, and enhanced by hands-on research and real-world experiences, the academic preparation SIUE students receive equips them to thrive in the global marketplace and make our communities better places to live. Situated on 2,660 acres of beautiful woodland atop the bluffs overlooking the natural beauty of the Mississippi River’s rich bottomland and only a short drive from downtown St. Louis, the SIUE campus is home to a diverse student body of more than 12,500.

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