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Division of Student Affairs


Washington State University is a First Forward Institution, recognized for its dedication to serving first‑generation college students. WSU joins the inaugural cohort of 80 universities and colleges across the nation selected by the Center for First‑Generation Student Success, an initiative of the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) and The Suder Foundation.

You can use the First Forward logo in your syllabus, email signature, and in your work space to show your support for First Gen Cougs. Right click the image to the right, and 'Save Image As'.

What does First Gen look like at WSU?

First Forward Institute Logo

First Gen by Campus Graph
  • Vancouver: 51.4%
  • Tri-Cities: 53.5%
  • Spokane: 30.4%
  • Pullman: 31.5%
  • Global: 29.4%
  • Everett: 41.7% 

33% of WSU students (all campuses, Fall 2019 reports.

National average is 56% of college students

Participate in system-wide and campus events during the week of November 4-8, in celebration of National First Gen Day 11/8.

A Balancing Act: Faculty and First Gen: A NASPA First Forward Webinar (All Campuses)

Monday, November 4 | 2:00  – 3:30 pm | CUB Butch’s Den, Pullman and Access via Zoom 

Navigating higher education as a first-generation college students can be challenging. Becoming faculty and identifying as first-gen adds a contextual layer to the higher education journey that must be discussed and explored! Presenters will share testimonials and personal narratives about how their intersecting identities, personal backgrounds, and life experiences inform their pedagogy and research practices. They will also share how identifying as first-gen continues to influence their academic identities. As such, the live briefing will focus on the lived experiences of navigating the professoriate to underscore the ways in which academic borderlands have impacted their lives, and especially how they have confronted, challenged, and even crossed these borders. The aim here is to highlight their agency, strengths, ingenuity, rather than to focus on any types of assumed deficiencies

Guest Speaker: Dr. Maria Chavez 

Dr. Chávez earned a Ph.D. from Washington State University and both her B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. with distinction from California State University, Chico. Dr. Chávez specializes in American government, public policy, and racial and ethnic politics. Specifically, her teaching and research are focused on the political, civic, and professional experiences of Latinos in various locations and circumstances, ranging from vulnerable undocumented Latinos living in the shadows to successful Latino professionals.

WSU Pullman Student Session: Debunking the Latino Threat Narrative: The Consequences of Lack of Representations and Systems of Oppression. 

Friday, November 8 | 9:00-10:00 am | CUE 518 (Pullman Campus) | Serving donuts and coffee 

Join Dr. Maria Chávez, as she discusses her Pathway to the Ph.D. as a first-generation college student. 

Faculty & Staff Session: First Generation Latino Professionals: Stories & Strategies to Increase the Pipeline  (All Campuses)

Friday, November 8 | 12:00-1:00 pm (doors open at 11:30) | Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center | Access via LivestreamPlease RSVP to join us for lunch. Book signing to follow presentation.

These events are sponsored by: the WSU Division of Student Affairs, Student Engagement in the Office for Access & Opportunity, College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), TRIO Student Support Services, TRIO Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program, College of Education, The Bookie, Common Reading Program and the ADVANCE grant.

First Generation Student Celebration - WSU Everett

Friday, November 8 | 1:30  – 3:30 pm | WSU Everett Room 101

Dr. Robert Richardson will be present on being a first-generation college student at a four year university followed by an activity led by Dr. Robert Richardson and Dr. Jacob Murray.

'I am 1st' event series- WSU Tri-Cities

Film: First Generation | Monday, November 4 | 12:30  – 3:30 pm | East Auditorium

First Gen Student Panel | Tuesday, November 5 | 11:00 am - 2:00 pm | Floyd Atrium

De-Stress | Thursday, November 7 | 11:00 am - 3:00 pm | SUB

National First Gen Day Events | Friday, November 8 | 1:00-4:00 pm | SUB

Light Refreshments & Treats, Art Display, and First Gen Ted Talks (1:45 - 2:30 pm)

Quick ways you can support our First Gen Cougs:

  • Understand what ‘first gen’ meansWe define first gen students as those whose parents or guardians have not earned a bachelors degree. First Forward fact sheet: demographic characteristics and postsecondary enrollment
  • Share if you were a first gen student. Students may feel more comfortable talking to you, knowing that you have been in a similar situation. Mention your first gen status in your email signature, in your syllabus or post it in your office. 
  • Review your course and office materials. Look for acronyms, institutional jargon or ‘short-cuts’ when describing the physical surrounding or buildings, requirements, or other university administrative processes. Phrases and words that are familiar to us may be particularly confusing for our first gen students. Examples can be found here.
  • Be clear and consistent with expectations. Share the expected amount of time and effort required to do well and remind students of deadlines throughout the semester. For individual assignments and tasks, describe any consequences which may occur if expectations are not met. First Forward fact sheet: first year experience, persistence, and attainment
  • Promote your office hours and accommodate student appointments. Clearly state the ways students can use office hours; such as discussing assignment instructions, reviewing grades, or prepping for an exam. Frequent invitations to use your office hours or request time help normalize the use of these services.
  • Familiarize yourself with campus resources and colleagues.  Students may not be aware of resources like tutoring, health services, counseling, libraries, computer labs, etc. Remind students that utilizing these resources is part of the college experience. Referring students to a specific contact person increases their chances of reaching out. First Forward fact sheet: use of student services among first year students
  • Encourage students to get involved. Student organizations, campus recreation or other extra-curricular activities may help them build a social support network.
  • Know the signs of a student in distress and how to respond. Faculty and staff are often able to recognize when a student is struggling, but it can be hard to know what to say or do. Our campus-specific “Helping Students In Distress” guides outline common scenarios and how to respond, refer and report when needed.
  • Attend Events. As a First Forward institution, we will host professional development opportunities throughout the year.