F.I.R.S.T. Institute

The University of Memphis, in partnership with the Suder Foundation and Northern Arizona University invites first-generation students to participate in the F.I.R.S.T. Institute and become a First-generation ambassador. By completing the institute program and earning your certification, you will not only be able to improve your college portfolio and resume but also become more competitive for leadership roles on campus, as well as employment opportunities after college. Undergraduate students at all class levels are encouraged to apply.

Why First-generation?

Did you know that approximately 40% of students at the University of Memphis self-report as first-gen? First-generation college students are termed non-traditional students whose parents or guardians have not obtained a bachelor's degree.

First-gen students report limited support from parents, university faculty, staff, and peers. Without the cultural capital necessary for a smooth transition into and through college, first-gen students often feel isolated and alone. We know that many first-gen college students overcome significant life challenges to achieve college enrollment as the first in their family. We believe that these life experiences hold a depth of character, courage and determination that demonstrate unique potential. The F.I.R.S.T. Institute is designed to empower this potential. By channeling scholars' personal strengths to develop skills and opportunities, our program helps students build a solid foundation for graduation and a fulfilled life of self-awareness, personal success and significance.


The University of Memphis is a large institution to navigate, but our student support resources are numerous. However, many students do not know about the opportunities on campus ranging from financial literacy workshops to tutoring services. At the F.I.R.S.T. Institute, we hear from leaders in our U of M community about academic support programs and study skills, professional development, on and off campus involvement opportunities, smart financial management, counseling services, and the importance of a relationship with a mentor.

Unique Experiences

You will be involved in workshops that help you:

  • Make connections with other first-gen students
  • Learn more about your strengths and skills
  • Develop a plan for college and beyond
  • Match with an on-campus mentor
  • Improve your resume

How the Institute Works

The Institute kicks off with an orientation session, followed by a series of workshops over seven weeks and concludes with a capstone celebration. Each workshop session is 60-90 minutes long and includes time to connect with fellow attendees, learn something new about college success strategies and develop an action plan for success in college and beyond. To complete your certification, you need to complete 5 workshops of your choice of the 10 available and participate in both orientation and capstone programs. You can become a First-Generation Ambassador in just 12.5 hours.

Who is Involved?

100 first-generation students will be selected for participation in the Institute (50 students each semester). The Institute is coordinated and facilitated by Multicultural Affairs, at The University of Memphis, 223 University Center (901.678.2054).