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AU Receives First-gen Forward Designation

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American University is pleased to announce its new designation as a First- gen Forward institution. The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA, or the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, as well as The Suder Foundation, announced their 2020-21 cohort of First-gen Forward institutions.

The First-gen Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education who have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. Selected institutions receive professional development, community-building experiences, and a first look at the center’s research and resources.

Ten percent of the student population at AU consistently self-identify as the first in their family to attend college. AU defines first-generation as “neither parent(s)/guardian(s) have attended college.” AU’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion is actively involved in leading initiatives to support first-gen students to enhance their college experience and ensure they are successful. CDI offers first-generation students a friendly space to express themselves and share their experiences through advising and educational programming. Along with the one-on-one support, workshops like "Paving the Way: Working with First-Generation College Students" have been beneficial for first-generation students to share their stories, and for the AU community to learn how to work better to support those students.

“The Center for First-generation Student Success welcomes American University into the 2020-21 cohort of First-gen Forward institutions. Through the application process, it was evident that AU is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students but is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies for significant scaling and important advances in the future,” said Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the center.

“AU is proud to support our first-gen students,” said Fanta Aw, vice president of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence. “Every student’s experience is unique, and our goal is to enhance our students’ college experience as much as we can through supporting their unique needs and increasing their opportunity to succeed.”

As a First-gen Forward institution, select faculty and staff will be afforded multiple opportunities to engage with peer and aspirational institutions who are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students. Selected institutions will send representatives to the First-gen Forward Workshop to be held in Baltimore in June and will participate in monthly phone calls, virtual professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting, and more. After two successful years in the program, institutions are eligible to apply for the advisory leadership designation.

“We consider national and AU data on first-gen students to help us determine the best ways to support our students with this identity,” said Consuelo A. Grier, director, Multicultural Student Support at AU’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion. “The staff and faculty are also very supportive. Many are first-gen students themselves and draw from their experiences to help our current students.”

To learn more about first-generation efforts at American University, visit

To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit