GVSU Committed to Advancing Success of Latino Students - Higher Education
Higher Education News and Jobs

GVSU Committed to Advancing Success of Latino Students

by Thomas J. Haas

Dr. Thomas J. Haas is president of Grand Valley State University.

Dr. Thomas J. Haas is president of Grand Valley State University.

In August, about 80 Latino students and their families will be welcomed at Grand Valley State University for the third annual Laker Familia, an orientation specific to Latino/a students.

We include the parents and siblings of our new students during a portion of this orientation because we want the entire family to feel comfortable with their student’s decision to become a Laker.

Laker Familia is a solid example of Grand Valley’s commitment to ensuring the success of students of color. This initiative was created to help address challenges, such as finances, cultural differences and academic readiness, that might keep students from graduating.

Graduation rates for students of color have improved nationally, and we must continue that momentum. Grand Valley is a leader in this area because of our intentional focus on student success.

I’m pleased to be the first university president in Michigan to join Excelencia in Education’s Presidents for Latino Student Success (Excelencia). With other presidents, I will advocate for increased higher education access for Latino/a students and support them with resources and services. Joining Excelencia fits within Grand Valley’s strategic plan of providing students with the tools they need to succeed.

Here is an example: Laker Familia will expand this year beyond three days in August to a yearlong support program for Latino/a students. Data show that these types of initiatives work both as recruitment and retention tools.

Grand Valley’s enrollment of Latino/a students increased in 2015 by 6.5 percent over the previous year—from 1,090 in 2014 to 1,161 last fall. I’m also pleased that we have one of the highest graduation rates for Latino/a students among Michigan’s 15 public universities.

These numbers support the programs, but it’s the students who are doing the work and achieving success.

Christopher Lopez, a junior from Saginaw, served as a mentor for Laker Familia after going through the program as a first-year student. He almost dropped out during his first semester but said the connections he made during Laker Familia helped him establish a campus support system and a network of friends.

Lopez is working as an intern this summer at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis. He was one of two Grand Valley students who earned scholarships last year that honor Lupe Ramos-Montigny, a member of the Michigan State Board of Education and a longtime West Michigan educator and activist.

Our work for and with Latino/a students goes beyond Grand Valley’s campus. To name a few examples, we have partnered with Grand Rapids Community College on several pipeline programs for middle and high school students and joined with the Hispanic Center of West Michigan to bring 60 Latino youth to campus for a college readiness program, Supporting Our Leaders (SOL).

These community partnerships play a vital role in furthering Grand Valley’s goal of creating an inclusive and welcoming campus, and work in concert with our mission to advance inclusion and equity for all students.

We recognize the changing demographics of the nation, particularly the growing Latino population and what an important role they will play in the future of our region and state. We will continue our forward momentum to capture the talents of students of color and engage them while they are part of our campus community before they become leaders in their own communities.

RELATED ARTICLES >>
Diversity Officers Grapple with Efforts to Professionalize Role Concerns about the legitimacy of the institutional chief diversity officer (CDO) have frequently prompted conversations about the need to professionalize the role. As recently as this year, organizations like the National Association of Diversity Off...
Doubts About Diversity I am skeptical that any of us embraces “diversity” as much as we might believe. We claim to be multicultural, but our conception has limits. These lines become apparent in any dispute involving vaguely liberal norms on the one hand, and a truly di...
Federally Funded Programs Are Not Enough to Diversify the STEM Workforce The Government Accountability Office (GOA) reported that of the 13 federal agencies surveyed that administer science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs, there were 163 STEM programs funded in fiscal year 2016 that wer...
White People Need Diversity, Too At my university and many others, “diversity” is like Frank's RedHot sauce, “they put that sh*t on everything!” It is drenched on mission and value statements. It is mixed into committees and task forces established to examine the ills facing Blac...
Semantic Tags: