About First Forward

The Center for First-generation Student Success launched in June 2017, with the mission of being 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. In continuing this mission, the Center is launching First Forward, the nation's first recognition program acknowledging higher education institutions for their commitment to first-generation student success.

The Center is currently reviewing applications for the first cohort of First Forward Institutions. Selected institutions will join an elite 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 United States.

The Center hosted a First Forward Interest Meeting to share information about First Forward, if you would like more information about First Forward please click here to view the recording.

Eligibility Requirements

In addition to submitting a complete application by FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 2019, interested institutions must:

  • Be an active, accredited, two-year or four-year institution of higher education, and located within the United States;

  • Be a NASPA Institutional member and the primary institutional contact must be a professional member;

  • Secure senior leadership support and commitment to participation;

  • Designate a minimum of two currently employed faculty and/or staff to serve as the institutional representatives to the program (additional faculty/staff are welcome to participate in programming);

  • Commit to fulfilling the requirements outlined in the requirements of participation section below.

Benefits of Participation

Participants from selected institutions will have opportunities to engage with a national cohort of institutions as well as a regional community of colleagues who are in geographic proximity to their campus. Selected First Forward Institutions will:


  • Receive public identification as a First Forward Institution on the Center's website and at select NASPA conferences;
  • Receive an official designation logo for use with institutional online and print materials;
  • Receive a template for a campus press release announcing your institution selection;
  • Receive an official notification letter to institution leadership from NASPA President, Dr. Kevin Kruger, celebrating this achievement;
  • Benefit from deeper engagement in the 16,000+ member NASPA network;
  • Engage with a broad cohort and regional communities of peer institutions willing to consult on challenges, share resources and evidence-based practices and celebrate program successes;
  • Engage in professional development that strengthens the campus knowledge base;
  • Receive reports and feedback through the annual report process;
  • Receive an institutional feature blog on the Center's website;
  • Receive first-look access to new Center reports and advance knowledge on first-generation student success;
  • Have an opportunity to advance to Advisory status after two active years.

Requirements of Participation for 2019-2020

Institutions selected for the 2019-20 inaugural First Forward cohort must:
  • Send at least two faculty or staff members to the First Forward Pre-Conference Workshop (June 15, 2019) at the 2019 NASPA Conference on First-generation Student Success (June 16-18, 2019; Orlando, FL)
    • This full-day, pre-conference meeting will be free to those from selected First Forward institutions and will serve as the official kickoff to the First Forward program. Participants will meet other First Forward participants, learn more about the Center and First Forward program, engage in professional development, hear from keynote speakers, complete goal setting, and gather with assigned small groups to plan monthly calls.
      • The First Forward Pre-Conference Workshop has no registration fee; First Forward Institutions will receive a small travel stipend to offset costs.
    • Those attending the First Forward pre-conference meeting are invited to remain for the NASPA Conferences on Student Success in Higher Education from June 16-18. Those choosing to attend may register through the NASPA First-generation Student Success Conference page and will receive the early bird registration pricing.
  • Actively participate in one cohort conference call each month (July 2019 - May 2020)
    • Each First Forward Institution will be placed into a small cohort based upon geographic region for monthly calls. There will be approximately eight calls (8) as some months will be skipped due to holidays and conferences.
      • Topics for calls will be suggested by the Center but also determined within the cohort.
  • Complete a goal-setting exercise and brief annual report
    • Using a provided template, First Forward Institutions will engage in a goal-setting exercise during the June pre-conference meeting to outline both goals for program participation as well as advancing first-generation initiatives within their campus community.
      • At the end of the First Forward annual cycle, the template will again be completed to identify progress toward goals. These documents will serve as great tools to share with senior leaders on your progress!
  • Attend a minimum of three (3) virtual events (Center Live Briefing or OnDemand)
    • Each month, the Center offers new live and recorded professional development opportunities on topics specific to first-generation student success. A look at current offerings can be found here. First Forward Institutions are asked to select a minimum of three live or on demand events to participate in during the 2019-2020 cycle. New content will be added regularly and participation is at your convenience.
      • This can be personal professional development for those representing an institution or can be used to host gatherings for faculty and staff to offer education on first-generation topics. These events make great brown-bag lunch gatherings! All First Forward Institutions will receive discounted pricing for programs.
  • Complete one blog about first-generation institutional initiatives or a relevant topic
    • Each First Forward Institution will be provided a template to craft a short blog on institutional first-generation initiatives or a relevant first-generation topic. First Forward Institutions will have an opportunity to sign up for a blog date during the program introduction so features can be planned for the website.
      • Blogs may include text, photos, videos, audio, etc, and will be featured on the Center's website and across social platforms. These become useful promotional pieces for your institution.
Optional Opportunity

First Forward Institutions are invited to attend the 2020 NASPA Annual Conference (March 28-April 1, 2020) in Austin, TX, for cohort and regional meetings, educational sessions, and social engagements related to First Forward and first-generation student success.

Continued Engagement

First Forward Institutions who satisfy participation requirements for the 2019-2020 cycle will be invited to renew their status as a First Forward Institution. Continued participation allows for new or different faculty and staff participants and requires attendance at the June First Forward Pre-Conference Meeting, completion of the goal-setting exercise and annual report, and engagement in monthly calls. Unless desired, there is no requirement to continue with live briefings or on demand professional development or to complete additional blogs. After two successful cycles in the program, First Forward Institutions are eligible to remain at the same status or apply for Advisory status.

More information for the 2020-2021 cycle will be updated and provided to selected First Forward Institutions in the coming months.

Application Overview

The First Forward application process is comprised of two parts. Upon completion of Part One, applicants will receive an email including a link to complete Part Two.

Part One asks applicants to:

  • identify a minimum of two institution contacts (maximum of three institution contacts); and
  • secure the support of institutional leadership most closely aligned with first-generation services and support.

Part Two asks applicants to:

  • provide detailed information about the institution, first-generation student offerings/programs; and
  • demonstrate a commitment of advancing first-generation student success.

The First Forward application is now closed.

The review process will begin promptly after the application close date on MARCH 15, 2019, applications will be closely reviewed by Center staff and the selection committee. Correspondence regarding the application status will come via email to the institutional contact, listed in the application. We anticipate notifying institutions of their selection by early-April.

Outside the United States?

If you and your institution are located outside of the United States but you interested in learning more about the First Forward recognition program, please email the Center.

Leadership Opportunities

Selected institutions will enter the program with the First Forward Institution designation and are invited to actively participate for two cycles (2019-2020 and 2020-2021, currently). After two successful cycles, First Forward Institutions will be eligible to apply for First Forward Advisory Institution status. This designation signals a continued commitment to first-generation student success and allows participants to become cohort leaders and offer leadership support to new First Forward Institutions. This designation also comes with additional recognition for the selected campus.

An institution is also welcome to remain a First Forward Institution beyond two years, without applying for Advisory Institution status, to continue professional development with fewer requirements.

Opportunities for a third level of First Forward leadership are under development and will be announced as the program is established.