The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and The Suder Foundation, recently announced Hamilton as one of 76 new members of the First Scholars Network for the 2023-24 academic year. The Network is a four-phase approach that engages and empowers institutions of higher education to advance student success through launching communities of practice, gaining knowledge of resources, and establishing peer networks. More than 350 institutions of higher education have entered the Network, representing 49 states and the District of Columbia.
“We are extremely honored to be selected as a First Scholars Network Member by the Center for First-generation Student Success,” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Christopher Card. “This selection represents national recognition of Hamilton's commitment to student success and especially the successes of our first-generation students who are an important part of our student community. We are excited to partner with the center and other institutions as leaders in identifying best practices to support current and future first-generation students at Hamilton College.”
Hamilton’s leadership team for the initiative will include Card, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Maria Genao-Homs, who will also serve as the College’s primary representative, and Associate Dean of Students for Student Engagement Travis Hill.
“We’ve made strides to help support our first-generation students and their families, but we recognize there’s more to do and that the work is always ongoing,” said Genao-Homs. “This opportunity opens up many possibilities for us to learn from others about thoughtful and intentional programming that will empower our entire first-generation community, all while continuing to build a sustainable system where they can thrive.”
In past years, Genao-Homs and campus colleagues have spearheaded efforts to celebrate members of Hamilton's first-generation community. In 2022, several students helped coordinate a campus installation as part of the FirstUp initiative, which included lawn signs that featured proud first-generation students, faculty, and staff. It was part of a week-long effort that coincided with National First-Generation Day, an occasion where colleges and universities raise awareness and celebrate the first-generation identity and experience.
“FirstUp illustrated that our first-generation community can be found at every level of the College, including among our faculty and senior leadership team members,” she said. “It’s important for students to know that everywhere they turn, there are people eager to rally around them and can relate to them through that shared experience.”
Powered by the Center for First-generation Student Success, the First Scholars Network offers a national model for scaling holistic first-generation student success by engaging institutions of higher education to radically transform the first-generation student experience, advance academic and co-curricular outcomes, and build more inclusive institutional structures.
“The Center is pleased to welcome Hamilton College into the First Scholars Network,” said Sarah E. Whitley, vice president of the Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through the application process, it was evident that Hamilton is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students but is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies that foster an environment of success for this important population.”
As a Network member, the College’s faculty and staff will have opportunities to engage with peer institutions also working to create environments that improve the experiences and success of first-generation students, and will participate in monthly calls, professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting, and more.
“It’s important for students to know that everywhere they turn, there are people eager to rally around them and [who] can relate to them.”
After successful completion of the Network Member phase, institutions progress to the second phase, First-gen Forward, before becoming a First Scholars Institution. First Scholars is the third phase of the First Scholars Network and serves as the Center’s customized approach to intentional institutional transformation in an effort to advance student outcomes. Ultimately, all Network institutions strive for national leadership as a First Scholars Champion Campus.
“Being named as a Network Member of the First Scholars Network is an exciting opportunity for Hamilton to join a dedicated 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 country,” said Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA. “We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the Class of 2023 Network Members and know Hamilton will be a significant contributor.”
To learn more about first-generation efforts at Hamilton, contact Maria Genao-Homs at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit firstgen.naspa.org.