Sarah Umbarger-Wells, M.Ed.

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


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Sarah M. Umbarger-Wells serves as associate director, First Scholars Initiatives® with the Center for First-generation Student Success, and joined in March 2019. A first-generation college student and native of southwest Virginia, Sarah’s career in higher education began at Oklahoma State University in the offices of financial aid & scholarships and university counseling services. Her transition back to Virginia led to a position as an academic advisor with Roanoke College Upward Bound.  Most recently, she served as assistant director for the Virginia Tech Talent Search Program. These opportunities fostered and solidified her interest in college access for minoritized populations. Sarah’s current research interests are grounded in higher education access and success for first-generation college students and refugee populations.

Sarah earned a bachelor’s degree in written and oral communications from Hollins University, an M.Ed. in counseling and student personnel with a concentration in community mental health from Oklahoma State University, and a Ph.D. Certificate in nonprofit & nongovernmental organizational management from Virginia Tech.  She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in higher education administration from Virginia Tech.