ESU Named to First-Gen Forward Cohort

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Posted by: Elizabeth Richardson on March 21, 2022, No Comments

The Center for First-Generation Student Success has recognized East Stroudsburg University (ESU) as one of 53 higher education institutions nationally to be named to its First-Gen Forward cohort for its “demonstrated commitment to advancing first-generation student success.” Other members of the 2022-23 cohort include John Hopkins University, Penn State University, Barnard College and Loyola University of Maryland.

“Our involvement in this national program, alongside other colleges and universities that face the same concerns about first generation students, is an important step in helping these individuals find successful pathways to their future,” says ESU Interim Provost Margaret Ball, D.M.A.

Jessica Santiago, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of the Warrior Success Advising and Retention Programs within the department of Academic Success, will lead ESU’s efforts. Dr. Santiago will participate in a virtual kickoff for the First-Gen Forward program in June and will then become immersed in a series of workshops and group discussions in order for all members of the cohort to offer support, share resources, evidence-based practices and celebrate program successes – all to enhance and promote ESU’s efforts at recruiting, supporting and retaining first generation students.

“This is my life’s work,” says Santiago. “I have tremendous passion for and involvement in the lives of first generation students at ESU and so I am eager to participate in this national program and bring best practices and innovative ideas to our campus so our students may benefit.”

Santiago heard about the First-Gen Forward program from Santiago Solis, Ed.D., vice president for campus life and inclusive excellence. They, along with Joseph Akob, executive director of ESU’s Student Activity Association, have been working on the university’s First Gen committee for two years. She is also working with Academic Success Coach, Eric Lee, to begin a chapter of Tri-Alpha 1st Gen Honors Society on campus. The first cohort will be inducted during the fall 2022 semester. Because of all the efforts to support first generation students there was no doubt ESU would be a great fit for First-Gen Forward.

“Imagine the tremendous impact we can make on the lives of our first generation students simply by listening and learning from other schools and other students,” said Santiago. “At ESU, about 41 percent of our current student population is first generation, meaning they are the first members of their family to attend college. The help we will be able to provide to these students and their families as a result of our involvement in First-Gen Forward will surely help to keep the students in school, on track to complete their degree and, finally, to graduate and enter a career field they’ve dreamed of!”

First-Gen Forward is the first national recognition program to acknowledge institutions of higher education for their commitment to first-generation student success. The First-Gen Forward designation will remain with ESU as long as the University is “actively advancing first-generation efforts and program requirements are being met.”

According to its website, the Center for First-Generation Student Success was launched in June 2017, with the mission of being 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. In continuing this mission, the Center launched First-Gen Forward. There are currently 215 designated First-Gen Forward Institutions across the 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22 cohorts that a 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 U.S. For more information about the Center or the First-Gen Forward program, visit