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SOU joins First-gen Forward

SOU recognized as “First-gen Forward” institution

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been selected to be part of the 2022-23 cohort of First-gen Forward, a nationwide initiative to improve academic outcomes for first-generation college students. SOU will become one of about 300 higher education institutions to have received the designation, becoming eligible for professional development opportunities, community-building experiences and access to the research and resources of sponsoring organizations.

“This is a recognition of our hard work to level the playing field for first-generation and other non-traditional students,” said Neil Woolf, SOU’s vice president for enrollment management and student affairs. “Our strategic planning process a few years ago identified seven ‘strategic directions’ for SOU, one of which is to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment where all learners will flourish. We are committed to providing services to assist students from under-represented backgrounds to be successful.”

Higher education institutions must apply for the First-gen Forward designation, and demonstrate both buy-in by campus leaders and their campuses’ efforts to help students from non-academic backgrounds make the transition to college life. Existing SOU programs that focus either largely or wholly on supporting the needs of first-generation students include the Bridge Program, Advanced Southern Credit, Success at Southern/TRIO-SSS, the McNair Scholars Program and University Coaching & Academic Mentoring.

First-gen Forward is an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, known as NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and the Suder Foundation.

NASPA is a U.S.-based organization for student affairs professionals with more than 15,000 members at 1,200 campuses worldwide. It is dedicated to cultivating student success in collaboration with the missions of its institutional members. Texas tech and commercial real estate entrepreneurs Eric and Deborah Suder launched the Suder Foundation in 2008 with the goal of increasing graduation rates for first-generation college students.

“First-gen Forward is an exciting opportunity for Southern Oregon University 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, the president and CEO of NASPA. “We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the First-gen Forward cohort and know SOU will be a significant contributor.”

The full 2022-23 cohort for First-gen Forward has not yet been announced, but other institutions that have achieved the designation since the program was launched in 2019 include just three others in Oregon – Portland Community College, University of Portland and Oregon State University.