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EIU Media Relations

Eastern Illinois University receives First-gen Forward designation; national honor for commitment to first-generation student success


(Charleston, IL) – The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation, recently announced Eastern Illinois University as a member of its 2021-22 First-gen Forward cohort. As a member of the cohort, EIU joins a devoted community of higher education professionals dedicated to sharing evidence-based practices and innovative resources that will continue to advance the success of first-generation students throughout Illinois and across the country.

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.

“First-gen Forward Institutions contribute to a national movement of two- and four-year institutions dedicated to advancing the success of first-generation students; redefining student success as a movement. We commend Eastern Illinois University for their leadership and look forward to witnessing continued progress throughout their participation,” offered Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA.

“The Center is so pleased to welcome Eastern Illinois University into the 2021-22 First-gen Forward cohort. Through the application process, it was evident that EIU 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,” added Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, assistant vice president, Center for First-generation Student Success. 

As a First-gen Forward Institution, EIU faculty and staff will be afforded multiple opportunities to engage with peer 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 slated for early 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. 

EIU President Dr. David Glassman shared his excitement at hearing of EIU’s inclusion in the cohort.

“Eastern Illinois University is absolutely thrilled to be recognized as a First-gen Forward organization by NASPA, and even more thrilled to join other like-minded, high-caliber institutions dedicated to advancing the success of our nation’s expanding pool of first-generation students,” Glassman said. “I’d like to thank [Executive Director of EIU’s Office of Inclusion and Academic Engagement] Dr. Mona Davenport and her team for helping EIU earn this distinction.”

Research by the Education Advisory Board, a best practice research, technology, and consulting agency based in Washington, D.C., suggests that nearly a third of U.S. undergraduates are first-generation students, meaning they are the first members of their family to attend college. As higher education journalist David Haney points out, these students desire the practicality of safe, affordable, supportive, and community-engaged institutions. And because many of these students are already involved in their local civic and faith communities, their on-campus presence can be responsible for boosting local and regional economies as well.

Josh Norman, associate vice president for Enrollment Management at EIU, hinted that Eastern’s status as a First-gen Forward institution may encourage even more prospective students to consider EIU in Fall 2021.

“EIU is already known for its welcoming, inclusive, and inviting culture, personal attention, and incredible student support infrastructure, and I believe the First-gen forward designation clearly demonstrates our commitment to the success of each and every student on our campus,” Norman said. “That demonstrated commitment is something that truly resonates with prospective students and their families.”

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

For more information about EIU, or to learn more about its growing assortment of programs and services, visit the university’s website at, or call EIU’s public information office at (217) 581-7400.

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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 8 U.S. territories. Visit for more information.

The Center for First-generation Student Success is 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. Through four strategic priority areas, the Center drives higher education innovation and advocacy for first-generation student success.



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Media Relations
Josh Reinhart, Public Information Coordinator

2142 Old Main
Eastern Illinois University
600 Lincoln Ave.
Charleston, IL 61920
Fax: 217-581-8444

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