Advanced search

Presbyterian College & The First Generation



May 26, 2023

Presbyterian College has advanced this spring to the First Scholars phase of the First Scholars Network – a prestigious national recognition of the college’s commitment to serve first-generation college students.

The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and the Suder Foundation, announced this spring that PC was chosen based on successful initiatives and institution-wide approaches to improving first-generation outcomes.

Rogers-Ingram Vice President for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Dr. Selina Blair, said PC is proving its commitment to building an environment that supports all students.

“With the rise of anti-DEI legislation, Presbyterian College is taking deliberate action to position itself as a champion of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion,” she said. “Receiving the national distinction as a First Scholars Institution solidifies our commitment to ensuring an environment that is welcoming, nurturing, and empowering for all students, specifically those students whose biological parents do not possess a four-year college degree.”

Blair credited Dr. Joleesa Johnson for her hard work as PC’s Presby First+ director.

“With approximately one-third of our student population being first-generation college students, we are fortunate to have someone with Dr. Johnson’s personal and professional experiences at the helm of this strategic initiative,” Blair said.

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 outcomes through establishing communities of practice, gaining knowledge of resources, and establishing peer networks.

More than 275 institutions of higher education have entered the network and progressed through the second phase, First-gen Forward.

Through its outstanding commitment, PC has been selected to join a third phase, First Scholars, that signals an unprecedented commitment to serving first-generation students. The Center recently announced a commitment to serving more than 700 institutions through the network in the next five years.

“After seeing such exciting network progress and leadership, the center is pleased to welcome Presbyterian College as a new First Scholars institution,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, vice president for the Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through every step, it was evident that PC is not only invested in serving first-generation students, but is prepared to make a long-term commitment to radically change the way first-generation students are served and to employ strategies for sustainability and scale that result in intentional impact.”

Through a phased approach designed to scaffold learning and achievement of institutions over time, First Scholars provides institutions with the opportunity to engage in student-centered, systemic transformation through an ecosystem of resources.

Benefits of participation in First Scholars include:

  • An evidence-based and research-supported framework of actionable priorities supported through monthly workshops;
  • Diagnostic tools providing critical institutional insight;
  • Robust data sharing as part of the national Postsecondary Data Partnership;
  • Guidance of expert coaches along each step of the experience;
  • Customized solutions and continuous improvement plans personalized to allow each institution to meet its first-generation student success goals.

Upon meeting milestones in the First Scholars phase, institutions are eligible to earn the Champion Campus designation.

“First Scholars provides a unique balance of bringing first-generation student initiative scaling into focus while drilling down into how the college recalibrates institutional systems to elevate potential and advance outcomes for first-generation students, positioning them to be a real leader in first-generation student success,” said Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA. “I look forward to seeing their success as they drive national change and advance success outcomes for first-generation students.”

Johnson said the First Scholars designation is meaningful for PC and current and future first-generation students.

This designation reinforces the institution’s commitment to the well-being, sense of belonging, and success of our first-generation students,” she said. “Advancing to the First Scholars phase allows us to collect and analyze data that will significantly impact how we make decisions regarding first-generation strategic initiatives, programming, collaborations, and services. This is just the beginning of what is to come for our first-generation students and the PC community, and I am thrilled to see the successful outcomes as a result of our fervent commitment to our students!

To learn more about first-generation efforts at PC, contact Johnson at To learn more about the First Scholars Network and the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit