KENT, Ohio — Kent State University has been recognized as a First-gen Forward Institution by the Center for First-generation Student Success. The 111-year-old institution was honored for its commitment to improving the experiences of students who are the first in their families to attend college.
"We really care about and support first-generation students," said Dr. Liz Piatt, the assistant dean for Kent State. "First-generation students have a lot of strengths that they bring to the university."
Benja Duff and Tiera Moore are both first-generation students at the university.
Duff said coming into school was difficult because she didn't really know what to expect.
"My parents didn't know what to do for like filling out a FAFSA or things of that nature," Duff said.
During her time at KSU, thanks to the program like the McNair Scholars Program, Duff has presented research at five conferences around the country.
"It's a post-baccalaureate program that gets first-generation students ready for PhD programs and higher education like a graduate program," she said. "I definitely feel like Kent State is very forward with the first generation."
Moore was also enrolled in the McNair Scholars Program. She said she's honored to be a part of the program and believes it has opened a lot of doors for her future.
"It's already a big deal as a first-gen student to think about getting your bachelor's but to think beyond that, that's very intimidating," she said.
Moore also credited the campus's Student Support Services for helping her succeed.
"Particularly, my sophomore year I didn't know how I was going to pay for one semester. I had a bill to pay but I didn't have the funds to do it," she said.
But soon after someone with support services noticed her bill was unpaid. He reached out asking how they could help. Following their conversation, Moore was connected with emergency funding to help her stay in school. Now, she's thriving.
"I was like so surprised that someone from the university even reached out to ask me what was going on and like how they could help," Moore said. "I was able to be part of student government. I'm now the student body president - which is something I never thought I'd be able to do. It was all because I had those resources that helped me be able to stay in school."
Moore believes her time at Kent State isn't over. She's planning to earn her Master's Degree from the university following graduation later this year.
As a First-gen Forward institution, Kent State will receive professional development, community-building experiences as well as research and resources from the Center for First-generation Student Success.