First-Gen at WSU: Shirley Lefever

Wichita State University is home to nearly 5,000 first-generation students, individuals whose caregivers weren't able to complete a college degree and who lack the firsthand experience to tackle college life. To help with their transition, Wichita State offers a number of resources to first-gen students to support them during their time in college, including F1RST GEN SHOCKERS.

Hear from Dr. Shirley Lefever, provost and executive vice president at Wichita State, who went to college as a first-gen student.


Burns, Kansas

What was your major when attending college?

I actually had several majors. I think I changed it five times. However, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. I also have a Master of Education and Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

What does being first gen mean to you?

Being first gen is a point of pride for me. It is a realization of my mother’s hopes and dreams. She has always been a role model to me, so for me to graduate with three degrees has special significance. She always encouraged us to get our education and to be self-reliant. I firmly believe education can change lives and feel I am an example of that.

How has your first gen experience inspired you?

Being first gen has inspired me to make sure I do what I can to support students at WSU. I know our first-gen students face challenges and hurdles that can sometimes seem overwhelming. Because of that, we are making student success and persistence our priority by being intentional in providing support structures and resources for all of our students. On a personal level, I set up the Beverly Lefever Scholarship for first-generation students as a way to give back and support our students.

Why does advocating for first gen matter?

Advocating for first-generation students matters because it takes all of us working together to ensure our students have the best possible experience here at WSU. Our pride in our students shines brightest when our students succeed.

What can faculty and staff do to help first-gen students?

Show up. Show an interest in them as individuals. Seek to understand their story and listen for ways to connect courses and academic experiences to the lived experiences of our students and/or their career aspirations.

About Wichita State University

Wichita State University is Kansas' only urban public research university, enrolling more than 23,000 students between its main campus and WSU Tech, including students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Wichita State University provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the Wichita State University main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.

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