Campus Equity Dialogue Series: What it means to be a Hispanic-Serving Institution

In “Becoming and Decolonizing Hispanic-Serving Institutions,” Associate Professor of Administrative and Policy Studies at the University of Pittsburgh Gina Garcia spoke to Cal Poly Pomona students, staff and faculty about the topic of Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI) on March 5 in Ursa Major, located in the Bronco Student Center (BSC), from 2:30-4 p.m. 

Regarding her book, “Becoming Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Opportunities for Colleges and Universities,” Garcia led a discussion to inform her audience of what HSIs stand for and their significance to students’ success in college. With CPP being an HSI, Garcia proposed many strategies and suggestions for CPP to better serve its students.

Guest speaker Gina Garcia leading a Prezi presentation describing what Hispanic-serving institutions are and how they can improve to better serve students.
(Jizelle Saucedo | The Poly Post)

At the beginning of her presentation, Garcia introduced HSIs as institutions that do not primarily focus on Hispanic students alone. Since she mentioned that many people question how students from different ethnic groups benefit from being part of an HSI, Garcia explained how an institution becomes eligible to be an HSI if it consists of 25 percent of students from a Hispanic background, and 50 percent of students come from low-income families or hold eligibility for federal Pell Grants. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Federal Pell Grants are direct grants awarded through participating institutions to students with financial need who have not received their first bachelor’s degree or who are enrolled in certain postbaccalaureate programs.”

“HSIs do not only focus on Latinx students but also low-income students,” Garcia said. “The institutions that are HSIs should understand the needs of low-income students feeling insecure about food, housing, possibly providing for a child and transportation and start a conversation on how they can better serve those students.”

Garcia described how the federal government doesn’t enforce clear expectations from institutions that are considered HSIs. She advocates for institutions to go outside of the box when it comes to what higher education does for students. Liberation, justice and equity were the three concepts that Garcia proposed for HSIs to focus on when serving students, instead of only looking to obtain grants and focus the university’s rankings based on students’ overall academic results.

As a student success ambassador for the Office of Student Success, fourth-year ethnic and women’s studies student Chloe Chu said this presentation informs faculty, staff and administration on how they can focus more on the experiences that students go through at CPP.

“Many students have experiences with trauma, oppression and racism which is usually left unheard,” Chu said. “These students should bring their experience to light, so higher administration can take note of it and take action to helps students facing these issues.”

David Sedillo, communications and marketing specialist for the Division of Student Affairs, explained how the equity dialogue series provided ideas for the staff, faculty and administration to further improve the experience for students at CPP.

“I feel these dialogues help show how much our campus is recognizing issues that are going on and how they are taking them seriously,” Sedillo said. “No matter if you are faculty or staff, we can all do more to commit to being more of a Hispanic-serving institution in practice, rather than just in words.”

With this being the second dialogue of the Campus Equity Dialogues Series sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, the last dialogue of the series, “Intersectional Coalition Building with Romeo Jackson,” is scheduled to take place April 6 in the BSC, Ursa Minor, from 6–8 p.m.

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