Bentley Honored for Welcoming First-Generation Students
(Above: Students on the Bentley campus before the pandemic.)
Bentley University has received national recognition for its commitment to the success of first-generation students. It’s been named part of the 2021-2022 First-gen Forward cohort, a group of colleges and universities that have demonstrated dedication to improving the experiences and advancing the outcomes of first-generation college students.
“As a first-generation student myself, I know the challenges these students may face and why it’s so important that they are supported,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Donna Maria Blancero. “We have made it an institutional priority to create an environment where the hundreds of first-generation students who attend Bentley can flourish and be successful.”
Bentley’s new FirstGen Presidential Fellows program is one example of the university’s commitment. It’s a prestigious leadership development program that offers high-ability first-generation students a full scholarship plus mentoring, networking and career development throughout their four years at Bentley. The first cohort is made up of 14 students — all of whom identify as either Hispanic, Black, African American, or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.
The program recently received financial support from the corporate world - Sun Life U.S. is the inaugural corporate sponsor. The Sun Life FirstGen Scholarship Fund, established with a $100,000 corporate gift, will support two FirstGen Presidential Fellows for each of their four years at Bentley. The company has hired many Bentley graduates and says the program will bring strong, qualified candidates to Sun Life and other organizations.
'It's a Life Changer'
The fellows program is part of a university strategy that includes the First-Gen Student Support Commitee, whose mission is to create a community of academic and social support that engages first-generation students and empowers them to successfully navigate their Bentley journey. This fall, the committee offered virtual events such as “First-Gen 101” to help new students get acclimated and celebrated First-Generation Student Day on Nov. 8 with an event featuring a panel of first-generation alumni who talked about their own on-campus experiences.
The First-gen Forward designation is given by The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation. As a First-gen Forward Institution, some Bentley faculty and staff will receive professional development and have opportunities to engage with peer institutions who are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students.