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LC State invited to join First Scholars Network for first generation work

LEWISTON, Idaho – Because of Lewis-Clark State College’s demonstrated commitment to improving experiences and advancing success for first-generation college students, the college has been selected to join the First Scholars Network.


First Scholars Network is an initiative of NAPSA, which is an organization for student affairs administrators in higher education, and The Suder Foundation, which promotes the advancement of societal transformation through higher education.

Nearly two-thirds of LC State’s degree and certificate seeking student enrollment are considered first-generation college students. A first-generation college student is defined as a student whose parents did not complete a bachelor’s degree. Although national statistics show first generation college students usually have a harder time earning a degree, LC State has consistently helped a high number of first generation students earn their bachelor’s degree.

The college re-engineered its freshman advising program in 2019 to include a more prescriptive approach to building class schedules and otherwise navigating the first year of college. The program includes student support from peer and faculty mentors as well as an academic advisor.

To help foster first-generation success specifically, LC State has put several plans in place, including awarding scholarships where preference is given to first-generation college students, a celebration of 1st Generation Day each November that includes a first-generation student panel and a proclamation stating the day is 1st Generation to College Day, “I’m First” pins given to graduates for their stoles at graduation, and presentations for faculty and staff on best practices in serving first-generation students.

In addition, LC State has had TRIO Talent Search on campus since 2006 and a TRIO Student Support Services program on campus until 2020. These federally funded programs provide college planning, academic advising, and other support services specifically for first-generation college students. Currently, a benefactor provides funding to supplement institutional resources for a TRIO-like program and has done so since 2020.

The First Scholars Network is a four-phase approach that allows higher education institutions to advance student success through establishing communities of practice, gaining knowledge of resources, and establishing peer networks.

“The Center is pleased to welcome Lewis-Clark State College into the First Scholars Network,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, vice president with the Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through the application process, it was evident that Lewis-Clark State 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, faculty and staff can 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. LC State took part in a virtual kickoff for the Network Member phase last week.

After successful completion of the Network Member phase, institutions progress to the second phase, First-gen Forward, after which it is eligible to become 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 Lewis-Clark State 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 Dr. 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 Lewis-Clark State will be a significant contributor.”

Traci Birdsell, who is the associate dean of Student Success at LC State, will oversee the First Scholars Network at the college.


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