University of Scranton Joins National Cohort for Advancing First-Generation College Students

As a result of the commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students demonstrated through The University of Scranton’s THR1VE programming, Scranton was selected to join the national 2022-23 First-gen Forward cohort. The cohort is sponsored by The Center for First-generation Student Success, which is an initiative of the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation.

Colleges selected to the First-gen Forward program receive professional development, community-building experiences and have access to research and other resources of the Center to further improve programming for first-generation college students.

“Through the application process, it was evident that The University of Scranton 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,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, assistant vice president, Center for First-generation Student Success. “First-gen Forward now recognizes and supports nearly 300 diverse institutions across four cohorts, all of which continue to lead the nation through their commitment to first-generation student success.”

First-generation (first-gen) college students are the first in their family to attend a four-year college or university. At Scranton, first-gen students make up 22 percent of the undergraduate student population. In 2019, the University launched the THR1VE program in an effort to meet the diverse needs of first-gen students and foster their success at Scranton.

According to Shannon Fennie Murphy, assistant dean of students who oversees the University’s first-gen programming, THR1VE focuses on three pillars: understanding and celebrating the first-generation identity; connecting students to resources; and celebrating students’ successes. Programming was initially based on a first-generation needs assessment conducted in late 2018 and is further guided by current needs identified through a student advisory council.

THR1VE programming begins at orientation and continues throughout matriculation. Programming includes the GU1DE peer mentoring program, which pairs first-year first-gen students with upper division first-generation volunteer mentors; a community awareness component that identifies staff and faculty members who were also first-gen college students; and participation in the National First-Generation College Student Day, among numerous other initiatives.

“The THR1VE monthly newsletter scaffolds student resources based on the time of the academic year and the class year of the student,” said Murphy Fennie. “For example, the October newsletters focus on tutoring services, imposter syndrome, and wellness resources for first-year and sophomore students, and on career development, internships and financial wellness for juniors and seniors. We find providing students with appropriate resources just prior to them needing the information reduces stress and allows students to navigate the systems independently.”

Murphy Fennie noted there are also many opportunities for involvement in THR1VE for faculty and staff who are first generation college students themselves or want to be advocates for current first generation students at Scranton. Faculty and staff members interested in becoming involved with the THR1VE program can complete this online survey.

Murphy Fennie wrote an article about THR1VE programming in the January 2022 issue Connections, published by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.

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. Based in Washington, DC, the Center offers an outlet for sharing cutting-edge research and current media conversations, opportunities for engagement through online learning, conferences and events, as well as access to numerous programs and services intended to improve first-generation initiatives across higher education.