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UMass Lowell Program Honored As Educational Model For First-Generation College Students

UMass Lowell

LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell’s program for first-generation college students is among the country’s best, according to a national organization dedicated to these learners. 

The Center for First-generation Student Success has named UMass Lowell a First-gen Forward Advisory Institution, recognizing it as a model for other colleges and universities to emulate. 

The honor singles out the UMass Lowell River Hawk Scholars Academy for the breadth of academic and support services it provides to enhance educational, campus and community experiences for first-year students who are the first in their families to pursue a college education. 

Forty-one percent of UMass Lowell undergraduates are first-generation college students. Over the last academic year, the River Hawk Scholars Academy served more than 300 participants and more than 300 first-year students are expected to join this fall.   

“UMass Lowell has a long history of welcoming and supporting first-generation college students, who help make the university such a vibrant place. Going into our fourth year, it’s clear the program is working: River Hawk Scholars Academy students are academically successful and are found at all levels of student leadership. We’re proud the Center for First-generation Student Success has recognized the program as a national model of excellence,” said Julie Nash, UMass Lowell vice provost for academic affairs.

As a First-gen Forward Advisory Institution, UMass Lowell will serve as a mentor, sharing best practices and offering guidance to other colleges and universities throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont that seek to create educational and cultural opportunities for these learners. 

“This national recognition is a testament to the best of what UMass Lowell can achieve. It’s a reflection of our first-generation students’ dreams and our university’s commitment to honoring those dreams,” said River Hawk Scholars Academy Director Matthew Hurwitz, a faculty member in UMass Lowell’s English Department.

Other members of UMass Lowell’s First-gen Forward Advisory Institution leadership team include Justin Gerstenfield, director of college-based professional advising, and Shaima Ragab, director of student affairs, Hurwitz said.

The Center for First-generation Student Success is an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and The Suder Foundation. The center identifies and supports colleges and universities across the country that excel at educating first-generation students. UMass Lowell was inducted into the center’s inaugural class of colleges and universities honored as First-gen Forward Institutions for these efforts last year.

“The center is so pleased to acknowledge UMass Lowell as a First-gen Forward Advisory Institution. The university continues to be a leader in the field and we look forward to working closely with them as they support other higher-education institutions in their regional community,” said Sarah Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success. 

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe.
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