WSU key partner for new center supporting first-generation students

By Steve Nakata, Administrative Services

first scholar and naspa logosPULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University will serve as a key contributing partner for a new center created to support the success of first-generation college students.

The Center for First Generation Student Success is a joint initiative between the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), a leading national organization for student affairs professionals, and The Suder Foundation, whose mission is to “improve the graduation rate of first-generation college students and prepare each scholar for a life with self-awareness, success, and significance.”

The center is based at NASPA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

WSU First Scholars Group
WSU First Scholars pose for a picture in the Lighty Student Services Building.

“WSU has a long-standing partnership with both NASPA and The Suder Foundation,” said Lucila Loera, assistant vice president for the Office for Access, Equity and Achievement. “We are excited to serve as an important resource as this center develops.”

The Suder Foundation provides funding for six First Scholars Programs across the country, including the one based at WSU Pullman.

Established in 2011, WSU’s First Scholars Program serves 80 students a year and bolsters their success through mentoring and tutoring, educational and social group activities, as well as providing opportunities for them to volunteer in the community.

The program is having a positive impact on students. The first-year retention rate for WSU First Scholars is almost 94 percent compared to 77 percent for first-generation students not participating in the program. First Scholars also perform better academically their first year averaging a 3.1 grade point average compared to 2.7 for their peer group.

The Center for First Generation Student Success will gather data and insights from the six universities now hosting the First Scholars Programs, then combine that information with its own research to advise other universities and colleges on proven best practices, thereby expanding the program’s impact.

Eva Navarijo, director of WSU’s First Scholars Program, and her staff have helped The Suder Foundation lay the groundwork for the new center by developing several “tool kits” that show universities how to better support first-generation students — creating living and learning communities, developing specialized workshops and conferences, and expanding professional development opportunities.

“WSU is very much part of a national network addressing these issues,” said Loera. “Looking ahead, I see myself and others on our team volunteering many hours to lend our expertise to this new center.”

Initial priorities for the center include conducting a national landscape analysis, establishing an advisory board, creating a community of practice, and becoming a clearinghouse for scholarly research.


Media Sources:

  • Lucila Loera, assistant vice president, Office for Access, Equity and Achievement, 509-335-7944,
  • Steve Nakata, public relations communications coordinator, Administrative Services, 509-335-1774,