HACU Leaders Focus on Internationalization, Immigration Reform - Higher Education
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HACU Leaders Focus on Internationalization, Immigration Reform

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ATLANTA — Conversations on the importance of Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) internationalizing their campuses, advocacy for DREAMers and collaborative partnerships between other minority-serving institutions for Hispanic student success filled the final day of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities’ (HACU) Annual Conference.

An opening international plenary on the role of HSI presidents and CEOs in internationalizing their campuses offered best practices to provide international experiences to students, infuse cross-cultural engagement into curriculum and attain buy-in from campus and external partners.

“Make internationalization a long-term, strategic priority” and investment, said Dr. Fernando León García, president of CETYS University. “In order for this to be meaningful, you have to link it to learning outcomes. It is about what skills, what experiences the students have gained so that they have a rich portfolio when they go out into the marketplace.”

Dr. Fernando León García

García added that institutions should seek financial and operational sustainability of their internationalization efforts, and that they should not only focus on students, but involve faculty, too, as they are the ones who will “perpetuate the effort” once students graduate, he said.

Efforts to internationalize a campus can be sustained through building partnerships and alliances with strategic partners around the world, García said, highlighting initiatives like the Partners of the Americas or the Erasmus Mundus program. He suggested that another approach for institutions includes identifying, nurturing and promoting campus “evangelizers of internationalization,” who can then recruit and engage others in various departments or colleges within the institution.

Other approaches included creating “internationalization committees” of administrators, faculty and students, creating a Center for International Education such as the one at Dalton State College or working with cultural centers and student organizations to promote study abroad and provide cross-cultural learning opportunities for the campus community.

“In the end,” García said, “it’s about enriching [students’] experiences and preparing globally competitive citizens.”

Along with internationalization and building cultural competency at HSIs, the fight for the rights of undocumented students was a central message at the conference.

In a session on “taking a stand” for DREAMer students, Samantha Borrego, academic advisor and retention specialist, and other campus leaders from the Metropolitan State University Denver (MSU Denver) said that it is important for institutional administrators, faculty and staff to put themselves in the shoes of undocumented students to understand the compounding challenges they face personally and systemically.

By facilitating conversations, raising awareness and challenging assumptions, leaders at MSU Denver — an institution with more than 400 DREAMers — created the DREAMer Network, which seeks to increase access, retention and graduation rates for undocumented students. Subcommittees in the network focus on providing outreach and resources about supporting DREAMers, fundraising and scholarships for students, in addition to “Undocupeers” and “Know Your Rights” trainings.

The Network’s efforts led to an institutional push for the implementation of DREAMer-inclusive language; the creation of a $7,000 fundraising effort for DREAMer student scholarships; the creation of the DREAMers Application for Institutional Aid; the creation of a DREAMers Resource Guide for faculty and a “Myths and Truths” document for others to learn about DREAMers; and direct donor sponsorship from members in the surrounding community, among other support.

Significantly, the DREAMer Network’s outreach and resource efforts address questions for campus community members, including on what to do if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrives on campus. The network also works to amplify undocumented students’ voices, presenters said.

“This is a population who really don’t have a voice, or they’re scared to share their voice on campus,” said Courtney Matsumoto, coordinator of the Advanced Manufacturing Sciences Institute at MSU Denver. “We’re really giving them a chance to be visible.”

Be realistic about your goals and your capacity to serve and support DREAMers, presenters concluded, on how other institutions can work to support undocumented students. Matsumoto posed the question to the audience: “What are your challenges and what are your opportunities?”

As the Latino population increases in the southern region of the U.S., campus administrators from Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine and Clark Atlanta University, in a post-luncheon session, shared that historically Black colleges and universities “are uniquely positioned” to recruit and serve Hispanic students due to their service-mission and their affirming and nurturing environment.

Dr. Ngozi F. Anachebe, associate dean of medical education, admissions and student affairs and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at MSM, said that her institution’s mission to diversify the health professional and scientific workforce involves “actively going after Hispanic students.”

Part of MSM’s efforts to serve a diverse cohort of students, including Hispanics, includes using a holistic admissions process, having faculty and administrators that are representative of the student body and conducting community outreach and mentorship to get underrepresented minorities into and through the medical career pipeline early on.

“We believe that we train the doctors that the nation needs,” Anachebe said. “You cannot achieve health equity if you do not have everyone represented.”

A concluding HACU town hall meeting featuring university presidents examined immigration reform as “today’s civil rights struggle.”

“We have [made] significant and important contributions to this society,” said Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, president of the University of Albany, SUNY. “If we continue in that direction, and we have the commitment, engagement and participation of everyone in this room, the future of Latinos and Latinas in this country is bright.”

Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at tpennamon@diverseeducation.com. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.

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