Focus on First-Generation Students Earns Westminster National Recognition

2 students participating in an activity with streamers

May 31, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY—Westminster is honored to be named a First-Forward institution by the National Association of Student Affairs Professionals (NASPA). First Forward is a recognition program acknowledging higher-education institutions for their commitment to first-generation student success.

The distinction will allow Westminster to expand current programming for a growing number of first-generation students on campus. Since 2016, the college’s first-generation population has doubled. Existing programs include Westminster Legacy Scholars — a scholarship program for students who are first-generation and are low-income and/or traditionally underrepresented. Legacy Scholars is a four-year program for first-year students and Legacy STEPS is a two-year program for transfer students. Support from the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation has contributed to the program’s growth.

“We have built something truly unique and special in just three years. This program set out to create a space and community for first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students,” said Daniel K. Cairo, ME.d., director of Westminster’s Student Diversity and Inclusion Center. “We knew that this demographic needed an institutional home, but more importantly, we knew that once we nurtured the potential of first-generation students, we would also realize Westminster’s vision of inclusive excellence.”

Legacy students are building a community on campus that engages in difficult dialogue and supports each other through the college journey. The scholars are making a noticeable impact at Westminster. Students in the program average a strong GPA and a retention rate between 90 and 100% – higher than national averages. Just a few of their successes include:

  • Obaidullah Barakzai (’22) recently spoke before the General Assembly of the United Nations about global connection among world citizens.
  • Mohammad Alzouabi (’22) was invited to speak at Multicultural Youth Leadership Day at the Utah State Capitol for their 2019 program.
  • Marley Dominguez (’21) received the Unsung Hero Award from the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for her tireless activism and work in the Salt Lake City community.
  • Lasana Trawally (’20) received the Gilman Scholarship. Each year, the Gilman Scholarship is awarded to a select few outstanding students to give them the opportunity to study or intern abroad. Lasana will be conducting research in Germany.

Westminster’s efforts led NASPA to ask the college to join the inaugural First-Forward cohort of elite institutions. The selected colleges will share evidence-based practices and resources, troubleshoot challenges, generate knowledge and continue to advance the success of first-generation students across the country.

Westminster will harness the resources available as a First-Forward institution to support the growth of Legacy scholars and other initiatives aimed at the academic success of all first-generation students on our campus. Completion of the First-Forward program will designate Westminster as a first-generation-serving institution.

Visit for more information about NASPA and First Forward.

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Arikka Von

About Westminster

Westminster is a private, independent, and comprehensive college in Salt Lake City, Utah. Students experience the liberal arts blended with professional programs in an atmosphere dedicated to civic engagement. With the goal of enabling its graduates to live vibrant, just, and successful lives, Westminster provides transformational learning experiences for both undergraduate and graduate students in a truly student-centered environment. Faculty focus on teaching, learning, and developing distinctive, innovative programs, while students thrive on Westminster’s urban Sugar House campus within minutes of the Rocky Mountains.

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