Sonoma State receives top honor for commitment to first-generation student success

First-gen Forward designation brings cutting edge professional development opportunities to university
July 14, 2022
Approximately 48% of SSU undergraduates are first-generation college students.

Approximately 48% of SSU undergraduates are first-generation college students.

ROHNERT PARK (CA) – Sonoma State University has received a prestigious designation for demonstrating a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students.

The Center for First-generation Student Success named SSU as part of the 2022-23 First-gen Forward cohort. The designation means SSU will receive professional development, community-building experiences, and early access to the Center’s research and resources focused on advancing the success of first-generation students.

A first-generation student is defined as a student neither of whose natural or adoptive parents received a baccalaureate degree. At SSU, approximately 48% of undergraduate students are first-generation.

“As a first-gen student, I did not realize how challenging it would be for my parents to understand the concept of college,” said Stephanie Bautista, a 2022 graduate in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies. “They were scared just as much as I was when starting my college career, but now in my last semester at SSU, all the hardships were worth it. I was able to find numerous resources (financial and academic) at SSU, which helped me successfully get through college as a first-gen.” 

Based in Washington, DC, the Center for First-generation Student Success offers an outlet for sharing cutting-edge research and current media conversations, opportunities for engagement through online learning, conferences, and events, and access to a bevy of programs and services intended to improve first-generation initiatives across higher education.

Through resources like the Center for Academic Access and Student Enrichment (CAASE), SSU has shown it provides equitable access to support services to help underrepresented and underserved students succeed during their undergraduate journey at Sonoma State and beyond.

Sonoma State offers a variety of programs aimed at helping first-gen students succeed, including TRIO Pre-Collegiate Programs to provide access to higher education success by creating a pipeline from middle and high school to college and beyond. The TRIO Student Support Services programs also provide holistic professional support designed to increase the retention and graduation of first-generation students. The Summer Bridge and Educational Opportunity Programs work to increase the access, academic excellence, and retention of first-generation, low-income students. At the same time, the distinguished McNair Scholars Program delivers intensive support to prepare first-generation undergraduate students for admission into graduate schools to pursue advanced degrees. 

“The First-Gen Forward designation demonstrates Sonoma State University's commitment to underserved and underrepresented students,” said EOP Coordinator Jesus Garcia-Valdez. ”SSU is meeting students and their families where they are at by investing resources to help identify and remove barriers that prevent these students from successfully transitioning and navigating the complex university system. It's empowering students to believe in themselves and to strategically plan their academics to graduate from SSU.” 

Giovany Morales, a third-year Early Childhood Education student minoring in Philosophy, said, "As a first-gen student, Sonoma State has helped me with resources such as free printing, study labs, tutoring, and more. I was able to receive academic help, attend professional growth workshops, and receive advice on navigating college.”

To learn more about first-generation efforts at Sonoma State at the university’s CAASE website. To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit