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Ferris State University Recognized for its Dedicated Commitment to Advancing First-Generation Student Success

First-generation student success

Ferris State University's commitment to first-generation student success is being recognized nationally. Ferris has been advanced to the First Scholars phase of the First Scholars Network.

The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and The Suder Foundation, today announced Ferris State University’s advancement to the First Scholars phase of the First Scholars Network. Ferris was selected based on its demonstrated commitment to advancing the outcomes of first-generation students through improving both first-generation student success initiatives and institution-wide approaches.

“From inception, Ferris State University removed barriers preventing historically underserved students from attending and completing college,” said Jason Bentley, dean of Retention and Student Success and interim dean of the Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education. “Ferris welcomed students from all walks of life through accessible, inclusive and affordable learning experiences – experiences supporting upward economic mobility. This work continues today.”

Powered by the Center for First-Generation Student Success, the First Scholars Network is a four-phase approach that allows higher education institutions to advance outcomes by establishing communities of practice, gaining knowledge of resources, and establishing peer networks. More than 275 higher education institutions have entered the Network and progressed through the second phase, First-gen Forward.

“Ferris is an institution where students from groups historically underserved by higher education belong and thrive,” Bentley said. “Recognition as a First Scholars institution by The Center for First-Generation Student Success further amplifies this commitment and our continuing work to help students realize their personal and career aspirations.”

Ferris was selected to join a third phase, First Scholars, that signals a commitment to serving first-generation students.

“We are excited to begin this new endeavor with First Scholars to begin focusing on an evidence-based framework of support for our First-Generation students,” said David McCall, director of First-Generation Initiatives and an associate professor of developmental curriculum. “First Scholars will provide us with access to diagnostic tools and data-sharing capabilities, hopefully allowing us to scale our current initiatives.”

McCall further noted that this accomplishment would not be possible without the administration’s continued support. Specifically, McCall highlighted President Bill Pink, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Bobby Fleischman, Student Affairs Vice President Jeanine Ward-Roof and Bentley. Further, he saluted the First-Generation Workgroup, comprised of volunteering faculty and staff. The group includes Angela Buys, Sharon George, Cindy Smith, Elizabeth Post, Nina Davis, Allison C Bernknopf, Joanie Hazelton, Mark Young, Nancy Hogan, Jennifer Stevens, Nicholas Palmer and Trishia Blackwell.

The Center recently announced a commitment to serving over 700 institutions through the Network in the next five years. 

“After seeing such exciting Network progress and leadership, the Center is pleased to welcome Ferris State University as a new First Scholars institution,” said Sarah E. Whitley, vice president with the Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through every step, it was evident that Ferris is not only invested in serving first-generation students, but is prepared to make a long-term commitment to radically change the way first-generation students are served and to employ strategies for sustainability and scale that result in intentional impact.”

Through a phased approach designed to scaffold learning and achievement of institutions over time, First Scholars provides institutions with the opportunity to engage in student-centered, systemic transformation through an ecosystem of resources. Benefits of participation in First Scholars include:

  • an evidence-based and research-supported framework of actionable priorities supported through monthly workshops; 
  • diagnostic tools providing critical institutional insight; 
  • robust data sharing as part of the national Postsecondary Data Partnership; 
  • guidance of expert coaches along each step of the experience; 
  • and customized solutions and continuous improvement plans personalized to allow each institution to meet its first-generation student success goals. 

Upon meeting milestones in the First Scholars phase, institutions are eligible to earn the Champion Campus designation. 

“First Scholars provides a unique balance of bringing first-generation student initiative scaling into focus while drilling down into how Ferris State University recalibrates institutional systems to elevate potential and advance outcomes for first-generation students, positioning them to be a real leader in first-generation student success,” said Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA. “I look forward to seeing their success as they drive national change and advance success outcomes for first-generation students.”

To learn more about first-generation efforts at Ferris, visit the First-Generation Student Support page. To learn more about the First Scholars Network and the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit