The Center for First-generation Student Success has recognized Metropolitan State University of Denver for its excellence and vision in serving students who are among the first generation in their families to attend a higher-education institution. The center has named MSU Denver to the First Scholars phase of its First Scholars Network, a four-phase approach that helps institutions build knowledge and resources to advance outcomes for first-generation students.  

MSU Denver is one of only two Colorado institutions recognized and was selected based on a demonstrated commitment to first-generation student-success initiatives and institutionwide approaches. The University joins 21 other institutions across the country in this aggressive agenda to improve first-generation student outcomes. 

Will Simpkins, Vice President for Student Affairs

“We are very proud to have made MSU Denver a top-choice university for first-generation students, as 58.4% of our undergraduate student body is first-gen,” said Will Simpkins, Ed.D., vice president for Student Affairs. “However, we also understand that being first-generation is just one part of a student’s identity. Having MSU Denver’s efforts to develop sustainable, scalable and long-term strategies for nurturing the whole student recognized by the Center for First-generation Student Success reaffirms that we are on the right path.” 

Through a phased approach designed to scaffold learning and achievement of institutions over time, First Scholars provides institutions with the opportunity to engage in student-centered, systemic transformation through an ecosystem of resources, including: 

  • An evidence-based, research-supported framework of actionable priorities supported through monthly workshops. 
  • Diagnostic tools providing critical institutional insight. 
  • Robust data-sharing as part of the national Postsecondary Data Partnership. 
  • Guidance of expert coaches along each step of the experience. 
  • Customized solutions and continuous improvement plans personalized to allow each institution to meet its first-generation student-success goals. 

Inclusion in this prestigious cohort also provides funding to attend the First Scholars Leadership Academy in Boston on March 31-April 1 prior to the NASPA Annual Conference. MSU Denver will send four to six members of the leadership team to prepare for the First Scholars commitment, establish peer networks and center the roles of leadership in advancing this important work.  

More than 275 institutions of higher education have entered the network and progressed through the First-gen Forward phase. In addition to MSU Denver, the center this year recognized the following institutions for their advancement to the First Scholars phase: 

  • Arkansas Tech University
  • Colorado State University 
  • Cuyahoga Community College 
  • Ferris State University 
  • Florida International University 
  • George Mason University
  • Kent State University 
  • Marquette University 
  • Nevada State College 
  • North Carolina Central University 
  • Presbyterian College
  • Richard Bland College 
  • Tarleton State University 
  • Texas A&M University-Commerce 
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • University of Wisconsin OshKosh 
  • Virginia Tech 
  • Washburn University 
  • Washington State University 
  • Wheaton College

To learn more about the First Scholars Network and the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit