About the Center

Welcome to the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and The Suder Foundation.

about the center


The Center for First-generation Student Success: Driving higher education innovation and advocacy for first-generation student success.


The Center is 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.


First-generation college students are critically important and an increasing population at nearly all institutions of higher education. As college and university leaders and practitioners are actively seeking avenues to best meet the specific needs of first-generation students, the Center for First-generation Student Success emerges as a leader for scholarly discussion, information sharing, networking, and program development.

Through provision of services and guidance across institutional types, the Center aims to acknowledge the intersectional experiences of first-generation college students. This website serves as a home for Center updates and announcements, an outlet for sharing cutting edge research and current media conversations, opportunities for engagement through conferences and events, and access to a bevy of programs and services intended to improve first-generation initiatives across higher education.

The Center, based at NASPA in Washington, DC, invites you to join our engaged community of thoughtful practitioners across higher education by becoming a NASPA member We encourage you to become involved in current and future initiatives and look forward to learning how you are currently serving first-generation students in your community. Thank you for your commitment to first-generation student success!


Connect Multi Black

Connect & Recognize


Knowledge Multi Green

Knowledge Creation &
Evidence-based Practices


Scalable Approaches Blue

Innovation & 
Scalable Approaches


Thought Leadership Orange

Thought Leadership &

Click here to learn more about the Center Strategic Priorities.

The Suder Foundation

The Suder Foundation was founded from Eric and Deborah Suders’ vision to design an innovative program that would dramatically increase the graduation rates of first-generation college students—those who are first in their family to attend college. For several years prior to starting the foundation, the Suders endowed scholarships at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) and West Virginia University (WVU) in order to help students with middle-range academic credentials and financial need who wanted to go to college but couldn’t afford it. They naïvely thought that financial assistance alone would assure the students’ success. They quickly learned this was not the case.


Center Leadership

The Center for First-generation Student Success will serve as the primary entity to increase the research, scholarship, and effective practice supporting first-generation student success and to expand the number of institutions with evidence-based programs. 

If you are interested in having a first-generation college success speaker for a meeting or event, please contact the Center by email at first-gencenter@naspa.org.

Center Staff
Jessica Colorado
Jessica Colorado, M.S.

Program Coordinator, Center for First-generation Student Success, NASPA

Deana Waintraub Stafford
Deana Waintraub Stafford, M.Ed.

Assistant Director, Center for First-generation Student Success, NASPA

SUW Updated Headshot
Sarah Umbarger-Wells, M.Ed.

Associate Director, First Scholars Initiatives®, Center for First-generation Student Success, NASPA

Bio: Sarah Whitley
Sarah E. Whitley, Ph.D.

Senior Director, Center for First-generation Student Success, NASPA

Advisory Board
Bio: Courtney Brown
Courtney Brown, Ph.D.

Vice President, Strategic Impact, Lumina Foundation

Bio: Sarita Brown
Sarita Brown, M.A.

President, Excelencia in Education

Bio: Walter Bumphus
Walter Bumphus, Ph.D.

President and CEO, American Association of Community Colleges

Bio: Jennifer Engle
Jennifer Engle, Ph.D.

Deputy Director, Postsecondary Education, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Bio: Maureen Hoyler
Maureen Hoyler, J.D.

Executive Director, Council for Opportunity in Education

Bio: Deneece Huftalin
Deneece Huftalin, Ph.D.

President, Salt Lake Community College

Bio: Jennifer Keup
Jennifer Keup, Ph.D.

Director, National Resource Center on the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition

Bio: Kevin Kruger
Kevin Kruger, Ph.D.

President, NASPA

Bio: Kathleen McCartney
Kathleen McCartney, Ph.D.

President, Smith College

Bio: DeRionne Pollard
DeRionne Pollard, Ph.D.

President, Montgomery College

Bio: David Rudd
David Rudd, Ph.D.

President, University of Memphis

Bio: Kirk Schulz
Kirk Schulz, Ph.D.

President, Washington State University

Bio: Louis Soares
Louis Soares, M.P.A.

Vice President for Strategy, Research, & Advancement, American Council on Education

Bio: Karen Stout
Karen Stout, Ed.D.

President & CEO, Achieving the Dream

Bio: Deborah Suder
Deborah Suder

Director and Co-Founder, The Suder Foundation

Bio: Eric Suder
Eric Suder

President and Founder, The Suder Foundation

Advisory Board Ex-Officio Members
Bio: Stephanie Gordon
Stephanie Gordon, Ed.D.

Vice President, Professional Development, NASPA

Headshot: Diane Schorr
Diane Schorr, J.D.

Executive Director, The Suder Foundation

Bio: Sarah Whitley
Sarah E. Whitley, Ph.D.

Senior Director, Center for First-generation Student Success, NASPA

Advocacy Group
Bio: Sonja Ardoin
Sonja Ardoin, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Appalachian State University

Bridgette Behling, M.Ed.

Associate Director, Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy, & Diversity, University of Maryland

Bio: Whitnee Boyd
Whitnee Boyd, Ed.D.

Coordinator of Special Projects, Office of the Chancellor, Texas Christian University

Bio: Wendy Brun
Wendy Bruun, Ed.D.

Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs, Northern Arizona University

Bio: Brett Bruner
Brett Bruner, Ed.D.

Dean of Student Engagement, Arkansas Tech University

Bio: Julie Carbello
Julie Carballo, M.Ed.

Director, First Generation Programs; Veterans & Military Services Coordinator, North Central College

kevin colaner
Kevin Colaner, Ed.D.

Associate Vice President; Chief of Operations, Division of Student Affairs, Cal Poly - Pomona

Bio: Suzette Combs
Suzette D. Combs

Director, Gen-1 Program, University of Cincinnati

Bio: Steve Dandaneau
Steven P. Dandaneau, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Reinvention Collaborative, Colorado State University

Bio: Oscar Felix
Oscar Felix, Ph.D.

Associate Vice President, Diversity, Colorado State University

Bio: Lesley Henderson
Lesley-Ann Brown Henderson, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Campus Inclusion & Community, Northwestern University

Bio: John Laws
John Laws, Ph.D.

Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs, Ivy Tech Community College

Bio: Kelley Oneal
Kelley O'Neal, M.Ed.

Director, Byrne Student Success Center, Texas A&M University

Bio: Tim Richardson
Tim Richardson, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Academic Support Services, University of Houston-Clear Lake

Bio: Belinda Zamacona
Belinda Zamacona, M.Ed.

Program Manager, Chancellor's Associates Scholars Program, University of California at San Diego