FIRST-GEN FORWARD logoMay 18, 2022–Missouri Western State University was named a member of the 2022-23 First-gen Forward cohort by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation. 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. MWSU is one of 53 schools nationwide and the only one in Missouri chosen for the 2022-23 cohort.

“The Center is pleased to welcome Missouri Western State University into the 2022-23 First-gen Forward cohort. Through the application process, it was evident that Missouri Western 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. 

“One of our key goals at Missouri Western is to develop a sense of belonging and engagement among our students,” said Dr. Brett Bruner, assistant vice president and dean of students at Missouri Western. “We have to be intentional about that, especially for students who are the first in their families to attend college and may not be as familiar with all that our campus has to offer.”  

Among other things, Missouri Western is launching a Max Communities program called First-Gen Scholars for students living in Scanlon Hall. First-Gen Scholars is a collective of first-generation college students committed to completing a college degree while building leadership skills and providing service to the Missouri Western community. First-Gen Scholar leaders will provide resource navigation, academic success strategies, and fun activities to help enhance their overall college experience.

In addition, the first-generation student experience has been embedded as a core component in Missouri Western’s Center for Diversity & Inclusion, and CDI has offered first-generation student success advocacy training to faculty and staff. First-generation members of the Class of 2022 were recognized during the Multicultural Graduation Celebration and the Spring Commencement ceremony earlier this month.

First-gen Forward now recognizes and supports nearly 300 diverse institutions across four cohorts. As defined by the US Department of Education, first-generation college students are those whose parents did not complete a 4-year college or university degree. 

As a First-gen Forward Institution, interested faculty and staff at Missouri Western 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 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. 

“First-gen Forward is an exciting opportunity for Missouri Western to join a dedicated community of professionals prepared to share evidence-based practices and resources, troubleshoot challenges, generate knowledge, and continue to advance the success of first-generation students across the country. We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the First-gen Forward cohort and know Missouri Western will be a significant contributor,” said Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA. 

To learn more about first-generation efforts at Missouri Western, contact Dr. Bruner at or George Hudson, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, at To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit


The Center 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 aims to acknowledge the intersectional experiences of first-generation college students. It offers an outlet for sharing cutting-edge research and current media conversations, opportunities for engagement through online learning, conferences, and events, and access to a bevy of programs and services intended to improve first-generation initiatives across higher education.


NASPA is a member-centered association supporting a diverse and passionate network of 15,000 professionals and 1,200 institutions across the globe. It is the professional home for the field of student affairs and is dedicated to cultivating student success in collaboration with the missions of its institutional members—a network of colleges and universities representing every sector of higher education.


Missouri Western State University is a student-centered learning community preparing individuals for lives of excellence through applied learning. Missouri Western is located in St. Joseph, Mo., and is committed to the educational, economic, cultural and social development of the region it serves. Visit