Facilitating Inclusion and Buy-In while Creating a First-generation Learning Community

James Barraclough, M.S., & Graciela Berumen M.A., / The Center / March 10, 2020

Washburn University FF



Washburn University was designated as a First-gen Forward Institution by the Center for First-generation Student Success in May 2019. It has been an exciting year of reflection and growth as we reassess our programs to ensure we continue to meet the needs of our first-generation students.



Building on a foundation of integrity, inclusion, collaboration and excellence, we have developed programs and initiatives to facilitate the growth of our first-generation learning community.

Here are some of our successes over the current academic year:

  • Celebrations and Brand – We want our first-generation students to be proud and excited to be a part of our campus. Campus-wide celebrations and branding also serve the purpose of making first-generation support more visible. Although t-shirts and fun little stress balls have been popular giveaways, our First-Gen and First-Gen Ally door signs and buttons have made a broader impact as we continue to grow a culture of support on campus.
    Washburn University Celebration
  • Meetings that Bridge Campus and Community – Our learning community extends beyond the campus and into our local community. Monthly meetings for our We Are F1rst student organization feature speakers who are willing to share their own stories of challenge and success while also serving to expand the network of each of our students. By asking questions in a safe and welcoming environment, our students gain insight and hope from their shared experience of being the first in their family on this journey.


  • Events that Build Community and Outreach – Our campus events are open to everyone, not just first-generation students. The goal is to create a learning community and environment that fosters growth, understanding and collaboration. Building a shared sense of overall community is a key to student success.
    Washburn University Social Media


  • Consistent and Purposeful Social Media Presence – We think our first-generation students are amazing and we want the world to know! It is great to see the excitement from students, families and community members as we highlight first-generation students, faculty and staff.




Future students also get excited as they see our events, celebrations and achievements. Having a consistent social media presence allows our community, those on and off campus, to be a part of our first-generation success story. Check us out @WeAreF1rst.

One of our newest initiatives is to honor a “First-Generation Family of the Year.” Building off of a long-standing tradition on our campus that specifically recognizes a Family of the Year for their support of and enthusiasm for Washburn University, we created a new tradition for our first-generation students and their support systems. During the spring semester, one of our first-generation students and their family will be recognized at a home basketball game. The families we honor have gone above and beyond in supporting their students to achieve their educational dreams.

Washburn University First-gen Family


Thank you for supporting the success of first-generation students on our own campuses! #FirstgenForward

To learn more about Washburn University first-generation student initiatives click here.