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August 2020

LEAD Scholars posing as a group

LEAD Scholars posing as a group

First-Generation Honor for SCU

Santa Clara University designated as a First-gen Forward Advisory Institution, a national honor for its commitment to first-generation student success

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Aug. 21, 2020—The Center for First-generation Student Success recently recognized Santa Clara University for its leadership and commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. Santa Clara was among 11 institutions recognized with the “Advisory Institution” designation, entitling SCU to receive extra professional development, community-building experiences, and a first look at the Center’s research and resources.

The recognition is especially timely given reports warning that first-generation students are among the most at risk of suffering academic declines from COVID-19-related changes to learning and housing. To address that risk, SCU’s LEAD Scholars Program—which provides academic, social, and professional opportunities and services to first-generation students— pivoted quickly last spring to provide extra support. Needs included new laptops and emergency travel home for students, many of whom come from low-income households. The program also assisted with housing, food and other basic living expenses, and is providing virtual programming on wellness, online learning, budgeting during the pandemic, and a weekly support group co-sponsored by the campus counseling office.

Now, as a First-gen Forward Advisory Institution, select faculty and staff at SCU 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. SCU will also participate in a virtual First-gen Forward Workshop on June 27, 2020, as well as in monthly phone calls, virtual professional development, goal setting, annual reporting, and more.

The Center for First-generation Student Success is an initiative of the leading organization of student affairs administrators (NASPA) and the Suder Foundation, and is a premier source of evidence-based practices, professional development, and knowledge creation to advance the success of first-generation college students. The Advisory Institution designation is awarded to leaders among First-gen Forward institutions based on their history and scale of first-gen student support offerings, as well as their contributions to the Regional Community.

“We commend Santa Clara University for their stalwart first-generation student efforts and look forward to working more closely through the Advisory designation,” said Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success.

First-generation students often face unique circumstances that SCU seeks to help them navigate, said Erin Kimura-Walsh, director of the LEAD Scholars Program.

“LEAD Scholars have often had to walk this path toward higher education on their own,” she said. “It may mean that they have to take some time away from family to be able to come here, and it may separate them from their communities. Santa Clara University's focus on social justice helps them see how they can use their education to go back into their communities and create change.”

“The First-gen Forward Advisory designation is an exciting opportunity for Santa Clara University and their leadership support within the regional community will be a great benefit to other First-gen Forward Institutions,” said Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA. “ It is so fulfilling to see a groundswell of activity across the First-gen Forward cohorts and know Santa Clara University will be a significant contributor.”

To learn more about first-generation efforts at Santa Clara University, visit To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit

About LEAD Scholars
Established in 2003, the LEAD Scholars Program at Santa Clara University provides academic and vocational development opportunities, supportive advising, peer mentoring, and community building through a variety of courses, programs, and support networks.

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.

About the Center for First-generation Student Success
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.

Media Contact
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications |

Program Contact
Erin Kimura-Walsh | LEAD Scholars |