Topeka, Kan. - Washburn University’s work with first-generation students continues to gain national recognition. The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and The Suder Foundation, has announced Washburn’s advancement to the First Scholars phase of the First Scholars Network.

    Washburn University was chosen based on its demonstrated commitment to advancing the outcomes of first-generation students through improving both student success initiatives and institution-wide approaches. Washburn considers students first-generation if none of their parents or legal guardians completed a bachelor’s degree (regardless if siblings or other relatives have earned degrees).

    “We are pleased that our work to improve the success of first-gen students is being recognized and for the assistance of NASPA in furthering our work. We know these initiatives help us learn lessons to improve the experience for all Washburn University students,” said Dr. Alan Bearman, interim executive director of enrollment management and dean of the Center for Student Success and Retention at Washburn University.

    The First Scholars Network is a four-phase approach that allows higher education institutions to advance outcomes by establishing communities of practice, gaining knowledge of resources and implementing peer networks. More than 275 institutions of higher education have entered the Network and progressed through the second phase, First-gen Forward. Washburn University was selected as an inaugural cohort of First-gen Forward Institutions in 2019.

    Through their outstanding commitment, Washburn University has been selected to join a third phase, First Scholars, that signals an unprecedented commitment to serving first-generation students. The center recently announced a commitment to serving more than 700 institutions through the network in the next five years.

    “After seeing such exciting Network progress and leadership, the center is pleased to welcome Washburn University as a new First Scholars institution,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, vice president, Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through every step, it was evident that Washburn is not only invested in first-generation students but is prepared to make a long-term commitment to radically change the way they are served.”

    Through a phased approach designed to scaffold learning and achievement of institutions over time, First Scholars provides institutions with the opportunity to engage in student-centered, systemic transformation through an ecosystem of resources. Benefits of participation in First Scholars include:

  • an evidence-based and research-supported framework of actionable priorities supported through monthly workshops;
  • diagnostic tools providing critical institutional insight;
  • robust data sharing as part of the national Postsecondary Data Partnership;
  • guidance of expert coaches along each step of the experience;
  • and customized solutions and continuous improvement plans personalized to allow each institution to meet its first-generation student success goals.

    “I look forward to seeing Washburn’s success as they drive national change and advance success outcomes for first-generation students,” said Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA.

    To learn more about first-generation efforts at Washburn, visit To learn more about the First Scholars Network and the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit


For further information, contact:
Lori Hutchinson
Interim Director of Public Relations
Telephone: (785) 670-1711
Cell: (785) 224-6212
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