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Private Higher Education
April 2, 2024

Linfield University’s award-winning Linfield First Scholars program, designed to build community and support for first-generation students, has received a $298,646 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.   

The grant, entitled “Growing First Generation Student Support Through Peer Mentoring,” will buttress and expand the Linfield First Scholars program from May 1, 2024, through September 30, 2027. Over that time, this award will support expanded programming for up to 525 incoming students, 210 peer mentors and 20 peer ambassadors.  

Photo shoot for Linfield Magazine

Since the implementation of the Linfield First Scholars program in fall 2019, the percentage of Linfield’s first-generation students has risen dramatically, from 26% in the 2018-19 year to 47% of first year students for the 2023-24 year. It has also led to closing much of the retention gap between first-generation students and their continuing-generation peers 

Gerardo Ochoa, vice president of enrollment management and student success, was one of the architects of the Linfield First Scholars program. He is himself a first-generation college student and a key driver of the university’s commitment to seeing and meeting the unique needs of those who are among the first in their families to attend college.   

“We know that first-gen students bring with them incredible skill sets and lend us their hopes and energy toward their goals,” Ochoa said. “This grant will allow us to ensure students’ college dreams become reality, that their time at Linfield will be memorable for all the reasons their families envisioned.”   

The grant supports the next three cohorts of first-year Linfield First Scholar students with a week-long pre-orientation experience, monthly college knowledge workshops, events and support from faculty, staff and trained peer mentors.   

In addition, the program will expand beyond the first-year experience to three tiers of student engagement. Tiers 2 and 3 provide additional mentoring and leadership training for students who choose to remain in the program as peer mentors and peer ambassadors. The program will provide these students with stipends, training and leadership opportunities that lead to mentor certifications through the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA).   

“We were able to launch First Scholars through The Collins Foundation, which in 2020 donated $130,000 for the first three years of this program,” Ochoa said. “We are all thrilled that, thanks to the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, this work will not only continue but meaningfully grow.”    

Abby Thomas, who directs the Linfield First Scholars program as part of her work as the university’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion, said that she and her student coordinators are thrilled at the opportunity to continue the support for the entirety of the Linfield First Scholars’ undergraduate journey.   

“The Linfield First Scholars programs mean a great deal to our students and community, and we are deeply grateful to the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations for this phenomenal gift,” Thomas said. “It will make an enormous impact in the lives of our first-generation students. We are all excited to continue this deeply important work.”  

For more information about the program, click here 


About Linfield University: Linfield University is an independent, nonprofit university with campuses in McMinnville and Portland, Oregon, as well an eCampus for online learning. Since 1858, Linfield has connected a traditional liberal arts experience with practical education through 54 majors, including wine studies, sport management and nursing. Linfield also offers interdisciplinary master’s degrees in business, nursing and sports sciences. For five years running, U.S. News & World Report magazine has named Linfield one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation when it comes to social mobility. Thirty-eight percent of Linfield students are first-generation college students, and 38% are U.S. students of color. Linfield competes in the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference. Learn more at 

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