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La Salle News

March 1, 2021

La Salle designated a First-Gen Forward Institution

Image of students walking on a snowy quad at La Salle University

National honor reflects La Salle’s strong commitment to first-generation student success.

La Salle University has been named a 2021-22 First-Gen Forward Institution by the Center for First-Generation Student Success, a national recognition of La Salle’s firm commitment to first-generation college students.

La Salle is among a select few colleges and universities nationally to have been selected to the Center’s third-annual First-Gen Forward cohort, the nation’s preeminent program acknowledging institutions for their efforts to support and improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students.

“La Salle’s historic mission calls upon us to provide a holistic education rooted in high-impact teaching and learning, leading to life-changing professional and personal outcomes,” said President Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D. “La Salle values the significance of helping students become the first in their families to earn a college degree. It’s our identity. It’s something we have done for nearly 160 years, and it’s an honor that our university has been chosen by NASPA to join this exclusive cohort.”

“As a first-generation student myself, I know the unique perspective and wealth of diversity that first-generation students contribute to our student experience at La Salle,” said Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Dawn Meza Soufleris, Ph.D. “Our focus remains with strengthening our commitment to improving the college experiences and professional outcomes of La Salle’s first-generation students.”

Image of the Center for First-Generation Student Success First-Gen Forward award logo.The Center for First-Generation Student Success is an initiative of NASPA—the organization of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education—and The Suder Foundation. The Center is regarded as 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.

Historically, La Salle University has maintained a commitment to enrolling and supporting its first-generation students. La Salle, with first-generation students comprising 30 percent of its student body, typically exceeds the national average of 24 percent.

First-gen students face challenges upon their arrival to college, said Joseph Ebbinger, Ed.M., an area coordinator in La Salle’s Department of Residence Life. Those obstacles can range from a sense of dislocation or unbelonging, to a lack of knowledge on navigating necessities of higher education, like applying for loans or internships. And the struggles compound without having a family member to lean upon for guidance.

“We seek to mitigate if not altogether alleviate these challenges for our students,” said Ebbinger, pointing to programs that offer insight on life and career design, and on-campus networking with other first-gen students and faculty and staff who identify as first-gens from their families. “These relationships lead to mentorship possibilities and campus connections that will remain in place throughout a student’s college career. Student success coaches also are available to make the transition to college life as smooth and successful as possible for first-gen students.”

“First-gen Forward now recognizes and supports over 200 diverse institutions across three cohorts, all of which continue to lead the nation through their commitment to first-generation student success,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, assistant vice president, Center for First-Generation Student Success. “We are pleased to welcome La Salle University for their long-term commitment and demonstrated strategies for advancing first-generation student initiatives.”

—Christopher A. Vito