UCLA Hosts Inter-Campus Forum of Institutions Serving Hispanics
UCLA hosted an inter-campus forum for faculty and administration on Thursday to discuss progress toward achieving federal Hispanic-serving institution designation.
The three-hour Hispanic-Serving Institutions Vision Forum was held in the Ackerman Union Grand Ballroom. UC faculty and administrators, including Chancellor Gene Block, came to discuss goals and statistics regarding the university’s progress toward achieving federal HSI designation and celebrate the findings of a report from the UCLA HSI working group. To become an HSI, at least 25% of the university’s full-time undergraduate student body must be Hispanic. Students, graduates and professors participated in the forum.
Block opened the forum and thanked faculty and attendees for coming together to discuss the initiative, and said he looked forward to the work to be done over the next few years.
Sylvia Hurtado, professor of education and co-chair of the HSI task force, said at the event that earning the HSI designation would help UCLA meet the UC system’s goals for equity and achievement. degrees by the end of the decade. The recent HSI Task Force report was created using discussions and interviews with staff, students, and faculty to both make progress toward achieving the HSI designation and better understand how to serve and support students, added Hurtado.
“Our strengths are that we have the highest retention and completion rates in the UC system, and perhaps among most four-year institutions,” Hurtado said. “But that doesn’t mean our students aren’t struggling. They are talented survivors. They need recognition and support to fly on this campus.
Following the keynote speakers, Marcela Cuellar, professor of education at UC Davis, and Marla Franco, associate vice provost for HSI initiatives at the University of Arizona, gave presentations on implementing the recommendations for moving towards HSI designation and greater equity.
Cuellar, who is also a graduate of the School of Education and Information Studies, said being an HSI should be an active and intentional effort. Some issues continue to make students feel less welcome at UCLA; she herself never received her official acceptance letter upon admission to UCLA, causing confusion and disappointment, she said. Although UCLA was originally her dream school, she chose another university because she felt more welcome there, Cuellar added.
“Even though my heart was here, I had to seize the opportunity — where I felt seen, where I felt welcome, and where there was opportunity,” she said at the event. “That’s still what I see as some of the challenges that continue to persist at institutions like UCLA, but really a lot of our institutions.”
A lively discussion followed the presentations, during which members of the public posed questions to speakers on a panel.
Sonja Diaz, founding director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute, asked Franco to discuss curricular changes and the role of faculty in shaping the University of Arizona to receive its current HSI designation. .
Franco responded that leadership, including strong and explicit public support from senior leaders on campus, as well as support and encouragement from faculty to actively engage in HSI initiatives, has served the university well.
Obtaining the HSI designation would make the university eligible to apply for federal funding to improve programming and infrastructure to support its students, Cuellar said.
Although UC campuses do better for Latinx students compared to other universities, equity gaps need to continue to be closed, which may involve cultural change, she added.
Franco said a university must perform intentional introspection and focus on specific roadblocks — such as enrollment management plans and strategies, or financial support — to sustain progress toward HSI transformation.
“These types of things also require dedicated financial resources. … Access to our institutions requires a plan,” Franco said at the event. “What are those parts and how do we spell that now? … How do we ensure that UCLA is an institution where students can feel they can bring their whole being?
Elizabeth Gonzalez, inaugural director of UCLA’s HSI, then delivered closing remarks. She said progress towards becoming an HSI must involve a balance of research, practice and support.
“Sometimes it’s very difficult to bridge that gap, to move from those abstract concepts and theory to the day-to-day practice of this work,” Gonzalez said at the event. “You need to have institutional leaders who support you and bring visibility to this work – that is, if you don’t, good luck.”