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Greenville Business Magazine

Clemson University Recognized As A First Forward Institution

Photo: President James P. Clements and FIRST Generation Success Program Director Sherry Dorris.

Clemson University has been recognized as a First Forward Institution by NASPA’s Center for First-Generation Student Success. This designation recognizes universities that have shown a commitment to the success of their first-generation student populations.

Clemson’s FIRST Generation Success Program does just that. About 14 percent of Clemson’s undergraduates are first-generation college students and FIRST provides these students with a support system as well as tools to encourage success in college.

“The FIRST Generation Success Program helps students find connections to each other and feel a sense of belongingness at Clemson, both of which help them to be more confident and successful in academics,” said program director Sherry Dorris.

Students also receive support and mentorship from older FIRST students, free tutoring, and access to college success workshops, among many other resources. The aim is to promote their retention from their freshman to sophomore years. Our ultimate goal is to see students graduate from Clemson and we hope to help by expanding services to upperclassmen, including the kickoff of an alumni mentoring program, FIRST AlumNet, this fall.

Being nationally recognized by First Forward will allow Clemson’s FIRST program to expand its efforts and become more effective. First Forward-designated universities will receive access to a network of like-minded institutions as well as opportunities for professional development and annual feedback from the Center for First-Generation Student Success.

Dorris hopes that, through this recognition, the program will gain more recognition on campus and with incoming students, in order to provide expanded services.

“As a First Forward Institution, we will have the opportunity to collaborate with other top first-generation programs across the country, sharing our practices and strategizing about new ways to increase first-generation student success,” she said.

This recognition is particularly significant given that first-generation college students can be found at all levels of the university. President James P. Clements is a first-generation college graduate himself. He has been involved with the program, offering mentorship to students in the same position as himself during his college career.

“I am especially thankful for the support we have received from our role model, Dr. Jim Clements, who takes time out of his schedule to meet and give inspiring talks to our students, sharing background of his first-generation journey,” Dorris said.

Clemson is part of the inaugural cohort of First Forward Institutions. This status will take effect for the 2019-2020 academic year.