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RCNJ Recognized for First-Gen Student Support

Ramapo College staff and students gather at a First-generation Student Center table on campus.

June 5, 2023

Ramapo College of New Jersey is now a member of the First Scholars Network for 2023-24. The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and The Suder Foundation, selected Ramapo College for its demonstrated commitment to improving experiences and advancing success for first-generation college students.

Uma Mahalingham speaking at the podium at the First-gen Student proclamation in November 2022.

Uma Mahalingam ’18 addresses the RCNJ campus at the First-gen Student proclamation in November 2022.

“I am thrilled that the First-Generation Student Center has been accepted into the First Scholars Network! This opportunity will allow RCNJ to learn and implement best practices to support our first-generation Roadrunners as they make history,” shared Uma Mahalingam ’18, assistant director for the First-generation Student Center.

The First-Generation Student Center at Ramapo College of New Jersey provides purposeful support and engaging services to create an equitable environment for first-generation students. The goal of the center is to promote first-generation student success through learning experiences that cultivate a sense of belonging and encourage holistic student development. The First-Generation Student Center also provides training and resources to campus community members to increase awareness and understanding of the lived experiences of first-generation students. Recent initiatives include recognizing November as First-Generation College Celebration Month and establishing the Zeta Nu chapter of the first-generation student honor society, Alpha Alpha Alpha (Tri-Alpha).

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 student success through establishing communities of practice, gaining knowledge of resources, and establishing peer networks. More than 350 institutions of higher education have entered the Network, representing 49 states and the District of Columbia. 

In this first phase of the First Scholars Network, selected institutions participated in the First Scholars Network Virtual Kick-off on June 2, 2023. As a Network Member, interested faculty and staff are afforded opportunities to engage with peer institutions also working to create environments that improve the experiences and success of first-generation students, and will participate in monthly calls, professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting, and more.

After successful completion of the Network Member phase, institutions progress to the second phase, First-gen Forward, after which it is eligible to become a First Scholars Institution. 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 outcomes. Ultimately, all Network institutions strive for national leadership as a First Scholars Champion Campus. 

“Being named as a Network Member of the First Scholars Network is an exciting opportunity for Ramapo College of New Jersey to join a dedicated 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 country,” said Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA. “We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the Class of 2023 Network Members and know Ramapo College will be a significant contributor.”

Read the full press release on the Ramapo College news page. Visit to learn more about the First-Generation Student Center at Ramapo College.