First Scholars Distinction for University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Building on recent efforts to continue support First-Generation Students, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has been designated a First Scholars Institution by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) and The Suder Foundation.
UIUC was one of 22 institutions named to the First Scholars 2023 cohort, the next level of recognition in the nation’s first program acknowledging higher education institutions for their commitment to first-generation student success. Across the entire First Scholars Network, over 350 institutions have been recognized. Collectively, they represent a 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 United States.
First Scholars is the third phase of the First Scholars Network and serves as the Center’s customized approach to intentional institutional transformation in an effort to advance student success. UIUC is the first university in the state of Illinois to achieve this designation.
As members of a First Scholars Institution, faculty and staff will work closely with the Center for First-Generation Student Success to continue our commitment to improving experiences and advancing success for first-generation college students. This entails building a foundational understanding of first-generation student success through participating in monthly workshops, networking and professional development opportunities, sharing knowledge and resources, and contributing to a peer community.
Welcome the inaugural Director of First Generation Student Initiatives, Jennifer Mendez!
Jennifer will serve as our inaugural Director for First-Generation Student Initiatives and Associate Director for the Office of Minority Student Affairs. As director, Jennifer will provide leadership in creating innovative university-wide programming and support structures to expand success for first-generation students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
Jennifer has been working in the field of higher education since 2015. She spent the last year in our office as a Student Success Advisor (SSA). However, throughout Jennifer’s time at Illinois she has been a campus leader in developing the foundation for our campus-wide efforts. To that end, Jennifer served as a UIUC leadership delegate at the NASPA First Scholars Academy and as an advisory council member at the 11th Annual National First-Generation Summit. Jennifer also served as a co-author for the NASPA Center for First Generation Student Success blog, as a presenter at the Women’s Resources Center’s Dish It Up series titled “First-Gen Alumna Reflections” as well as at University of Michigan’s “Are You First? Promoting Success for and with First-Generation Student Symposium” poster session. Jennifer, in partnership with I-Promise previously secured 5k in grant funding for broadening inclusion where she in cooperation with I-Promise and OMSA launched the “Proud to be First Gen” series. Jennifer currently manages the institution’s first-generation community directory.
Jennifer is a proud UIUC first-gen alumna who earned her Master of Arts degree in Higher Education with a concentration in Student Access and Success from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Jennifer is also currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership with a research focus on expanding access to study abroad for first-generation students. Jennifer has experience in advising, admission outreach, operational management, communication plans, career services, alumni relations, programming as well as serving as a Level 1 Faculty and Staff Mental Health Ambassador and an I-Promise mentor.
To learn more about resources for first-generation students at the University of Illinois visit firstgen.illinois.edu
To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit firstgen.naspa.org.