TRIO and First-Gen Forward

The new Center for First-Generation & Educational Equity (FirstGenEdEq), formerly the Center for Academic Access and Opportunity (CAAO), is home to Suffolk University’s college access, educational opportunity (Federal TRIO), and first-generation student programs.

Through the center, the institution is committed to helping prepare income-eligible, first-generation, and underrepresented high school students, veterans, and undergraduates with their transition to college and graduate school.

The Center for First-Generation & Educational Equity (FirstGenEdEq) was renamed in 2023 to centralize all college access, educational opportunity, and first-generation programs at the institution. With a majority first-generation college student staff, the Center’s mission is to promote educational equity through advocacy, community, and scholarship.

Suffolk University currently hosts three federal TRIO grants:

  • Ronald E. McNair Scholars: a selective undergraduate research and graduate school preparatory program for full-time undergraduate students at Suffolk University with the intent to pursue doctoral programs post-graduation
  • Upward Bound: a program for eligible participants from our target school—Tech Boston Academy—and the Dorchester area to help encourage and prepare students to enroll in post-secondary programs immediately following their high school graduation
  • Veterans Upward Bound: a preparatory program for eligible military veterans who reside in one of our target counties—Suffolk, Middlesex, Essex, and Norfolk—and are interested in enrolling in a program of higher education, including certificates, associates, and bachelor’s degrees

Additionally, the Center houses the Nathan R. Miller Scholars program, high school dual enrollment programs, and Boston Public School alumni programming under its college access branch.

Our new Director of First-Generation Student Initiatives supports first-generation programming at FirstGenEdEq through collaborations with various centers and departments. The center is home to the First-Generation College Student Celebration Week, monthly First-Gen Friday events, and the Tri-Alpha First-Generation Honor Society, with more programming on the horizon for our first-gen population.

Please contact us or stop by our office to learn more about our programs and services.

First-Gen Forward Designation

In March 2021, Suffolk University was selected to be among the new 2021-2022 cohort of 58 institutions to be granted a First-Gen Forward designation by the Center for First-Generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the Suder Foundation. First-Gen Forward is the nation’s first recognition program acknowledging higher education institutions for their commitment to first-generation student success.

The designation speaks to Suffolk University’s commitment to first-generation college students and to the extensive collaborations across its three schools, the academic departments, and its administrative units. These programs and initiatives were highlighted by the Center for First-Generation Student Success during the selection process:

  • The Center for First-Generation & Educational Equity’s majority first-gen staff
  • The three Federal TRIO Programs at Suffolk University
  • A dedicated first-generation student lounge/conference room at the FirstGenEdEq suite
  • An annual week-long first-gen student celebration with cross-department collaboration
  • The Connect the Dots First-Gen Mentorship Program in the Division of Student Success
  • First Generation Law School Student Association with a First-Hand First-Gen Podcast
  • A $20,000 yearly scholarship for incoming First-Generation college students to the Suffolk Law School
  • A dedication to highlighting success stories publicly and visibly on the university website
  • A commitment to first generation college students by the university administration

Dr. Abraham Pena, executive director of the Center for First-Generation & Educational Equity and Lisa Rivera, director of first-generation student initiatives serve as the institutional contacts for the First-Gen Forward designation at Suffolk University.

First-Gen & Educational Equity Staff

Abraham Peña, PhD
Executive Director
Center for First-Generation & Educational Equity
Principal Investigator, Federal TRIO Programs
Primary Contact, First-Gen Forward designation

Lisa Rivera, EdM
First-Generation Student Initiatives
Primary Contact, First-Gen Forward designation

Samienta Alexis, MPA
College Access & Postsecondary Success

McNair Scholars Staff

Bryan Landgren, MEd
Assistant Director

Upward Bound Staff

Samienta Pierre-Vil, MPA
Program Director

Jenna Carpenter
Academic Counselor

Tyrza Milord
Student Support Coordinator

Veterans Upward Bound Staff 

Nicholas Charrette
Program Director

Jennifer Waden
Associate Director

Ashley Booker
Project Specialist

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