Columbia State recognized for serving first generation college students

The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and The Suder Foundation, recently announced Columbia State Community College as one of seventy-six new members of the First Scholars Network.

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To be selected as a First Scholars Network member, Columbia State displayed a demonstrated commitment to networking and service experiences for support of the success of first-generation college students.

“As a first-generation college graduate, I understand the value of a college environment that builds an underlying program of support for the success of the students,” said Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president. “Through this First Scholars program we see an opportunity to assess our support services for enhancement of student success for our first-generation students as well as all students.”

Powered by the Center for First-generation Student Success, the First Scholars Network is a four-phase approach that allows institutions of higher education to advance student success through establishing communities of practice, gaining knowledge of resources, and establishing peer networks. More than 350 institutions of higher education have entered the Network, representing 49 states and the District of Columbia.

“The Center is pleased to welcome Columbia State into the First Scholars Network,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, vice president with the Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through the application process, it was evident that Columbia State is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students but is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies that foster an environment of success for this important population.”

In this first phase of the First Scholars Network, selected institutions participated in the First Scholars Network Virtual Kick-off on June 2. As a Network Member, interested faculty and staff are afforded opportunities to engage with peer institutions also working to create environments that improve the experiences and success of first-generation students, and will participate in monthly calls, professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting, and more.

After completion of the Network Member phase, institutions progress to the second phase, First-gen Forward, after which it becomes a First Scholars Institution. As a First Scholars Institution and a member of the Scholars Network, a customized approach to intentional institutional success support activities becomes central to the advancement of student outcomes.

“Being named as a Network Member of the First Scholars Network is an exciting opportunity for Columbia State to join a dedicated community of professionals prepared to share evidence-based practices and resources, troubleshoot challenges, generate knowledge, and continue to advance the success of first-generation students across the country,” said Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA. “We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the Class of 2023 Network Members and know Columbia State will be a significant contributor.”

To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit

Columbia State is a comprehensive community college serving southern Middle Tennessee established in 1966 as Tennessee’s first community college, Columbia State has grown to five campuses including Columbia, Williamson, Lawrence, Lewisburg and Clifton. Columbia State was also named one of the Top 150 U.S. community colleges by the Aspen Institute for 2017 and 2019. Visit to learn more.The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 100,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.

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