Today@Sam Article

SHSU Recognized For Commitment To First-Generation Student Success

June 2, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd

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The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and The Suder Foundation, recently announced Sam Houston State University as one of seventy-six new members of the First Scholars Network for 2023-24. To be selected as a First Scholars Network member SHSU displayed a demonstrated commitment to improving experiences and advancing success for first-generation college students.

“We are extremely honored to be selected as a First Scholars Network Member by the Center for First-generation Student Success,” said Joe Contreras, executive director of the First-Generation Center at SHSU. “The First-Generation Center is elated that Sam Houston State University has been nationally recognized for its institutional commitment to advancing first-generation efforts, especially as we approach the 1-year anniversary of the First-Generation Center on June 6.” 

Contreras believes that SHSU stood out among other institutions thanks to university leaders’ commitment to first-generation student success. 

“We are one of three public universities in the state of Texas that has a dedicated center that exists solely to support first-generation students,” Contreras said. “Another way we set ourselves apart was through the selfless support of our faculty and staff members to first-generation students and their support of our center.”

Powered by the Center for First-generation Student Success, the First Scholars Network is a four-phase approach that allows institutions of higher education to advance student success through establishing communities of practice, gaining knowledge of resources and establishing peer networks. More than 350 institutions of higher education have entered the Network, representing 49 states and the District of Columbia.

“The Center is pleased to welcome Sam Houston State University into the First Scholars Network,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, vice president of the Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through the application process, it was evident that SHSU 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.”First Gen Grads 1

In this first phase of the First Scholars Network, selected institutions participated in the First Scholars Network Virtual Kick-off on June 2, 2023. As a Network Member, interested faculty and staff are afforded opportunities to engage with peer institutions also working to create environments that improve the experiences and success of first-generation students, and will participate in monthly calls, professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting and more.

After successful completion of the Network Member phase, institutions progress to the second phase, First-gen Forward, after which it is eligible to become a First Scholars Institution. First Scholars is the third phase of the First Scholars Network and serves as the Center’s customized approach to intentional institutional transformation in an effort to advance student outcomes. Ultimately, all Network institutions strive for national leadership as a First Scholars Champion Campus. 

“Being named as a Network Member of the First Scholars Network is an exciting opportunity for Sam Houston 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,” said Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA. “We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the Class of 2023 Network Members and know SHSU will be a significant contributor.”

Contreras and his team at the SHSU First-Generation Center are happy to not only be recognized as an outstanding team but to also highlight the university’s efforts to support the numerous first-generation students enrolled.

“This recognition will enable our university to continue its momentum of achieving excellence. Fifty-three percent of our student population consists of first-generation students and this national recognition clearly illustrates that our university is committed to first-generation student success,” Contreras said. “In addition, this recognition will help our center and university attract incoming first-generation students as one of our priorities is to become the premier university in the state of Texas to support first-generation student success.”

To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit


The First-Generation Center at SHSU, established in June 2022, is dedicated to helping first-generation students and their families navigate their university experience. They provide services and support to the university’s student population, 53 percent of which are first-generation students. To learn more about first-generation efforts at SHSU visit the First-Generation Center’s webpage.


The Center is transforming higher education to drive first-generation student success effectively and equitably across education, career and life. We provide data, training and expertise for a growing network of colleges and universities around the country to scale and sustain the important work of serving first-generation students. 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.

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