High Potential Program Receives High Acclaim

The High Potential Program Team (from left): HP Coach/Graduate Intern Joy Aburquez; HP Coach/Peer Mentor Coordinator Sharzad Mozaffar; Director, HP and TRIO Student Support Services Jenee Palmer;  Chief Diversity Officer, Faculty Co-Director, HP, Department Chair, Counseling Department Gloria Aquino Sosa, PhD;  HP Coach/Graduate Intern Nancy Aguilar;  Assistant Vice Provost for Student Success Tracy Pascua Dea, PhD.Congratulations, kudos, and high fives! Saint Mary’s was recently named among a select group of colleges and universities across the nation as a First Forward Institution by the Center for First-Generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA–Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation. This bestowed honor recognizes institutions for their success and commitment to first-generation college students. Being selected welcomes SMC to the 2019–20 First Forward Cohort—a community of professionals that will work together to share evidence-based practices and resources, troubleshoot challenges, generate knowledge, and continue to advance the success of first-generation students.

“I am honored that we, the High Potential Program and Saint Mary’s College, were selected to be part of the inaugural cohort of First Forward,” said Tracy Pascua Dea, assistant vice provost for student success. “The national recognition is an opportunity to reflect upon the strong, long-standing commitment we have to first-generation students and celebrate that HP, a signature retention and graduation program, is not only a best practice in the SMC community but also in the national landscape of higher education and student success. As a team, we base our student support initiatives and strategies on evidence-based practices and research grounded in a strengths-based approach. As a first-generation undergraduate student, graduate student, and professional, this work is important to me professionally and personally. It is about honoring the past, continuing the momentum to the future, and leaving a lasting legacy and impact on the community.”

As a First Forward designated institution, SMC will receive a number of benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Acknowledgement as a First Forward Institution on the center’s website and at select NASPA conferences.
  • Participation in the 16,000+ member NASPA network.
  • Invitation to attend the First Forward Workshop in Orlando, Fla., in June.
  • Engagement with a broad cohort and regional community of peer institutions.
  • Professional development and goal setting.
  • Institutional-specific feedback through the annual report process.
  • Development of an institutional blog.
  • First-look access to new center reports and advance knowledge on first-generation student success.
  • Opportunities to advance to Advisory status after two active years.

“The First Forward recognition provides us the opportunity to showcase the great work of so many individuals over the last 45 years, highlighting the resources and infrastructure added in the last six years through the TRIO High Potential Sphere of Success (HPSS) grant that focuses on strengths-based institutional change and is grounded, like the HSI CALC grant, on first- generation literature,” said Gloria Aquina Sosa, High Potential Program faculty co-director and senior diversity officer. “I could not be more proud to be the faculty co-director of a nationally recognized student success model, and to work with such fine professionals and students.”

Achieving this coveted and highly respected recognition is yet another example of the success of SMC’s High Potential Program and the College’s support of and commitment to first- generation students. “We are honored to be recognized as a member of the inaugural First Forward cohort,” said Jenee Palmer, director of the High Potential Program and TRIO Student Support Services. “High Potential staff look forward to collaborating with other institutions across the country as we work to advance the success of first-generation college students here at Saint Mary's College.”

“The center is so pleased to welcome Saint Mary’s College of California into our inaugural cohort of First Forward institutions,” said Sarah E. Whitley, MEd, senior director of the Center for First-Generation Student Success. “Through the application process, it was evident that Saint Mary’s is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students but is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies for significant scaling and important advances in the future.”

Kevin Kruger, PhD, president of NASPA, added, “First Forward is an exciting opportunity for Saint Mary’s College to join an elite community of professionals to continue to advance the success of first-generation students across the country. We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the First Forward cohort and know that Saint Mary’s will be a significant contributor.”

In addition to the First Forward recognition, the High Potential Program has been selected as a 2019 Global Award Certificate of Merit winner in the Outstanding Advising category from NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. The program will be honored this fall at an awards ceremony and reception during the annual NACADA Conference in Louisville, Ky.

Congratulations all the way around!