Rider University nationally recognized as First-gen Forward Institution

Mar 4, 2021

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. — Rider University was selected to the 2021-22 First-gen Forward cohort by the Center for First-generation Student Success. Only 58 institutions were selected for the cohort. The designation recognizes institutions of higher education who have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. “We are honored to be recognized nationally as an institution dedicated to supporting the success of first-generation students,” says Dr. Leanna Fenneberg, vice president for student affairs. “As the first in my family to attend college, I relate to and understand the unique challenges that first-generation students face as they pursue higher education. This personal experience makes me even more proud of Rider’s continual, growing efforts to help first-generation students attain their goals and thrive in college and beyond.” Approximately 27% of current Rider students are first-generation college students. Rider offers a variety of programs and support services to help first-generation students succeed academically, personally and professionally. Most notably, Rider’s Student Support Services (SSS) program has helped students transition to Rider since 1993 through orientation activities, workshops and resources designed to support first-generation college students, as well as students who are low-income and/or have a disability. 

SSS is one of eight federal programs known as TRIO. Rider has also been participating in another TRIO program, the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement program, since 2007. The McNair Scholars Programs aims to increase the attainment of doctoral degrees by primarily first-generation students and individuals from underrepresented segments of society. The comprehensive program fosters preparation for graduate school enrollment through research training, mentoring, instruction and other scholarly activity. 

Rider hosts a number of focus groups, workshops and webinars to address the needs of first-generation students and their families. Topics include financial literacy, networking with faculty and staff, preparing for internships and careers, and more. Rider offers peer-to-peer mentoring programs for first-generation students and summer bridge programs designed to ease the transition to university life. Each November, Rider also commemorates First Generation Day, celebrating first-generation students, faculty and staff, and honoring their accomplishments. 

First-generation students are vital members of the Vice President for Student Affairs’ Student Advisory Board. Members of the board reflect the diversity of the Rider community and provide invaluable student perspectives regarding a variety of topics, including creating a vibrant campus community; diversity, equity and inclusion; student success; and co-curricular learning. “The Center is so pleased to welcome Rider University into the 2021-22 First-gen Forward cohort,” says Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, assistant vice president, Center for First-generation Student Success. “Through the application process, it was evident that Rider 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.” As a First-gen Forward Institution, faculty and staff will be afforded multiple opportunities to engage with peer institutions that are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students. Selected institutions will send representatives to the First-gen Forward Workshop slated for early June and will participate in monthly phone calls, virtual professional development, goal setting, annual reporting, and more. After two successful years in the program, institutions are eligible to apply for the Advisory leadership designation. 

The Center for First-generation Student Success is an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation. The Center for First-generation Student Success is the premier source of evidence-based practices, professional development and knowledge creation for the higher education community to advance the success of first-generation students. 

Through four strategic priority areas, the Center drives higher education innovation and advocacy for first-generation student success. NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education is the leading association for the advancement, health and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Its work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries and eight U.S. territories.

About Rider UniversityRider University is a comprehensive, private university centrally located between Philadelphia and New York City. More than 4,600 students are drawn to its programs in business, education, liberal arts, sciences, music, and fine and performing arts. The University’s Engaged Learning Program is the unifying thread that runs throughout a Rider education, providing a deeply personal and destiny-shaping experience for every student. Through internships, study abroad, community service, research with faculty, participation in the arts and more, Rider students forge their own pathways and embark on exciting futures with the support of meaningful connections made at the university. Visit rider.edu to learn more.