Flying First: Rowan recognized as a First-gen Forward institution

Flying First: Rowan recognized as a First-gen Forward institution

Rowan President Ali A. Houshmand shares his story with students in the Flying First program. The program, which provides supports to first-generation students and their families, has received national recognition.

In recognition of the University’s efforts to support first-generation students and their families, Rowan University has been designated a First-gen Forward institution by the Center for First-generation Student Success.

The University’s Flying First program was named to the 2021-22 First-gen Forward Cohort, an initiative of NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation.

The designation recognizes institutions of higher education that have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes for first-generation college students. Institutions earning the designation receive professional development opportunities, community building experiences and first access to the center’s research and resources.

First-gen Forward is the nation’s first recognition program acknowledging higher education institutions for their commitment to first-generation student success. Through four strategic priority areas, the Center for First-generation Student Success drives higher education innovation and advocacy for first-generation student success.

“The center is so pleased to welcome Rowan into the 2021-22 First-gen Forward cohort. Though the application process, it was evident that Rowan 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,” says Sarah E. Whitley, assistant vice president of the Center for Frist-generation Student Success.

Established in 2017 by Rowan’s First-Generation Task Force, Flying First provides tools and opportunities for first-generation students to have a successful personal, professional, academic and social college experience.

According to Penny McPherson Myers, vice president in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, first-generation students comprise 27 percent of Rowan’s undergraduate population. First-generation students are defined as students who are the first in their family to attend college or who are children of parents who attended college but did not finish.

National statistics show that, without support, first-generation students are more likely to have difficulty finding their place in college and in navigating higher education culture. In fact, national statistics show that first-gen students drop out of college at four times the rate of their peers whose parents have completed post-secondary education, according to Myers.

Flying First works to counteract that by providing vast resources to first-generation students and their families and to faculty members and staff who teach and mentor them.

Just last month, Rowan’s fourth annual Flying First First-Generation Symposium, offered virtually, was held over three days and included registrants from 52 colleges and universities from as far away as Texas, Maine, Minnesota, and Hawaii.

The designation as a First-Gen Forward Institution means the University joins a devoted community of professionals who can share evidence-based practices and resources, troubleshoot challenges, generate knowledge and continue to advance the success of first-generation at students at Rowan and throughout the nation, according to Myers and Amy Ruymann, director of University Advising Services and co-chair of the First-Generation Task Force.

“NASPA’s First-gen Forward designation underscores Rowan’s commitment to first-generation students,” Ruymann notes. “We look forward to sharing ideas with other First-gen Forward institutions as we continue to support the success of first-generation students.”

According to Whitley, 215 diverse colleges and universities across three cohorts have received the First-gen Forward designation.

NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education is the leading association for the advancement, health and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Its work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries and eight U.S. territories.