SCSU Selected as First Scholars Network Member

Betsy C. Beacom, Southern Connecticut State University, Integrated Communications and Marketing / The Center / March 09, 2024

Southern Connecticut State University mascot with students

Southern Connecticut State University (Southern, SCSU) has been selected as one of 76 new members of the prestigious First Scholars Network for the academic year 2023-24. This honor, bestowed by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and The Suder Foundation, distinguishes Southern for its support of first-generation students and its commitment to advancing degree completion.

The university participated in the virtual kick-off event on Friday, June 2, 2023, marking the official start of the first phase of Network engagement. This phase includes connecting with peer institutions for professional development activities, goal setting, communication and reporting development, and more.

At Southern, undergraduate students are classified as first-generation if neither parent has completed a four-year college or university degree.

“We are honored to join the First Scholars Network,” said Tracy Tyree, Vice President of Student Affairs. “We know that investing in these students’ educational success will increase their likelihood of completing a degree at Southern and improve their career outcomes. I can’t wait to see where this journey will lead.”

Interim President Dr. Dwayne Smith, himself a first-generation student raised in poverty with a family history rooted in Mississippi sharecropping, shares this sentiment. Smith is enthusiastic about building on the transformative potential of higher education in students’ lives.

Due to discriminatory laws in the South, Smith’s family, particularly his mother, did not have the opportunity to pursue an education. “Everyone has the right to a post-secondary education with the right mindset and the right type of support,” Smith emphasized.

Everyone has the right to a post-secondary education with the right mindset and the right type of support.

With the additional support provided by the Network, Southern intends to expand its support resources, with a primary focus on improving institutional data collection and reporting. This plan includes implementing first-generation-focused assessments, promoting wider dissemination of data, and enhancing accessibility to the campus community. Southern will also refine communication channels to identify the needs and potential barriers faced by first-generation students and take strategic steps towards education and awareness.

Southern Connecticut State University FgF student group
Senior Zamagee Pendergrass shared her experience as a first-gen student at Southern, where connecting with her peers and finding her mentors made all the difference. Before coming to Southern, she said, she “experienced a great deal of uncertainty and lack of belonging during [her] first two years of college.” But, she added, “when I transferred to Southern, that changed dramatically. There were many opportunities to connect and network with others through events around campus. I chose to take those opportunities and put myself out there. Two years later, as a senior, I have gained belonging through work as a transfer student assistant, and as a peer mentor with other scholars. Being at Southern allowed me to build meaningful and lifelong relationships with other scholars, staff, and faculty members. Southern provides me the resources that I need to succeed as a first-gen student and to overcome challenges, like of having a lack of community/belonging.”

For more information on Southern Connecticut State University's approach, please visit their website here.