HBU faculty and staff members desire to reach all students and help them achieve at their highest potentials. For students of Hispanic heritage, higher education can come with unique challenges at times. Many students experience conflict between their role as a student and their place within their families, say Cristina Nader, HBU director of Student Support Services, and Annel Gonzalez, a first-year success coach. Additionally, Hispanic students make up a higher percentage of the general population that is classified as low-income.
The University is considered a Title V, Hispanic-serving institution because at least 25 percent of students are Hispanic or Latino. In the fall of 2016, HBU began a specialized effort to reach these students and address their specific needs called the Latino Student Success Initiative (LSSI). That fall, the Hispanic Student Organization (HSO) was formed. Among staff and faculty members, employees throughout the University stepped up to provide guidance and support to students.
In 2017, the University was represented at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities Conference, and again in 2018. This school year, for the second consecutive year, HBU has celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month. During Family Weekend in September, a presentation was available to families in Spanish. Spanish-speaking parents can now connect online through the “Somos HBU Padres” Facebook page.
The Student Success and Student Life departments collaborated for several key events during the heritage month like “Taste and Sounds of Salsa,” an event featuring food and dance. The Baugh served up a “Latin Flavors Day,” and several professors hosted a Spanish movie night on campus.
All of the outreaches and events are meant to foster a sense of welcome and belonging. “We want to help our students feel connected to the University and to let them know, ‘There is a space for me here,’” Gonzalez said.
Jonathan Rangel-Salazar, a senior Education major, didn’t realize HBU was an option until he explored financial aid. His experience has been a positive one; he helped with the LSSI initiative and with planning the first Hispanic Heritage Month. He also helped establish a Spanish Bible study and was Homecoming King in 2017. “The professors at HBU are really welcoming to Hispanics,” he said.
Dr. Miguel Estrada, a Spanish professor and a member of the LSSI committee, said, “Community is important inside and outside of the classroom for Hispanics. Over my time at HBU, I have seen the Hispanic population become more visible because of their leadership.”
Nader recently served as a moderator of an employee panel in which faculty and staff members learned more about the needs of Hispanic and first-generation students. LSSI committee members continue to work together toward best reaching this specific population.
All students have benefited from the recognition of unique identities and cultures, Nader said. “Students want to feel celebrated,” she said. “It builds community overall.”