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UMD Joins Cohort of Schools Supporting First-Generation Students

By Maryland Today Staff

The University of Maryland has been selected to be part of the Center for First-Generation Student Success’ First-Gen Forward and First Scholars programs, which recognize and connect institutions committed to the advancement of first-generation college students.

Twenty-nine four-year institutions across the country are part of the First Scholars program, and 157 two- and four-year colleges are part of First-Gen Forward.

“There are very few schools who have been selected for this honor,” said Bridgette Behling, associate director of Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy, Diversity within the Adele H. Stamp Student Union. “It is an indicator to prospective students that, ‘This is an institution thinking forward about first-generation student success. This is a place I can find a path for myself and a community who cares about my success as a student,’” said Behling.

The Center for First-Generation Student Success, an initiative of the higher education organization NASPA and the Suder Foundation, offers selected schools data analysis tools to help understand and intentionally support first-generation students by learning from other universities bolstering student success, and provides professional development resources for faculty and staff developing student success initiatives.

With the support of a grant from the Student Government Association, Stamp will launch a pre-college transition program for first-generation students this fall. UMD offerings like the Academic Achievement Programs and the Incentive Awards Program have long provided community, resources and support to many first-generation students.

“The hallmarks of the Incentive Awards Program are its close-knit community, mentoring and wraparound programming,” said Jacqueline Wheeler Lee, IAP director. “Equally as important is an abiding belief in the capacity and value of each student.”

Jerry Lewis, director of the Academic Achievement Programs (AAP), said they were among the first programs on campus to use the term “first-generation students.” AAP also introduced the “Fearless First” Achievers five years ago to promote a sense of common experience throughout the campus community and to promote pride in achieving as a first-generation college student.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.