By Joe Garvey

Old Dominion University was recently named a First-gen Forward Advisory Institution by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the Suder Foundation.

ODU is one of 12 colleges and universities elevated to Advisory Institution status for the 2021-22 academic year.

The First-gen Forward Advisory Institution designation recognizes institutions of higher education that 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. Select faculty and staff from these colleges and universities will have opportunities to engage with peer and aspirational institutions that are also creating environments prioritizing success for first-generation students.

"The Advisory Institution designation is an affirmation of our national leadership and success in helping first-generation students earn their degrees," said Don Stansberry, ODU's vice president of student engagement and enrollment services (SEES). "We look forward to working with our colleagues from other colleges and universities on this important mission."

Roughly half of Old Dominion's incoming freshmen and approximately 25% this year's graduates were first-generation students. Additionally, almost 13% of the faculty are the first in their family to graduate from college.

"ODU has made first-generation student success a priority for many years," said Austin Agho, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "We demonstrate this in multiple ways - by championing social mobility, providing mentorship and supporting our students in a variety of other ways."

TRIO: Student Support Services, a part of the University's academic-support landscape for more than 30 years, provides academic support services for eligible students - individualized tutoring, success skill development, course planning and advising. Mentoring is available through the ODU F1RST network composed of faculty, staff and students who are first-generation students or graduates, and Monarch 2 Monarch First Gen, which hosts monthly meetings around financial literacy, getting involved and time management.

In 2018, ODU launched its Center for Social Mobility and the annual National Social Mobility Symposium, which brings together institutional teams of admissions, enrollment and student affairs professionals. Those actions helped influence U.S. News & World Report's decision to add social mobility as a factor in its Best Colleges rankings.

ODU has been named a "top performer" in social mobility by U.S. News & World Report and was recently rated fourth in the nation in reducing inequalities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

"The addition of the 2021-22 First-gen Forward cohort demonstrates a national movement of two- and four-year institutions dedicated to advancing the success of first-generation students, redefining student success as a movement. We commend Old Dominion University for its already strong contribution and look forward to engaging more at the Advisory Institution level," said Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA.

The Suder Foundation, which is based in Plano, Texas, aims to improve the graduation rate of selected first-generation college-bound students by providing them financial, academic, emotional and social assistance at selected state universities throughout the United States.

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