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Davis, California

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

UC Davis students, administration work toward gaining HSI status

Video courtesy by AggieTV

By the fall of 2019, UC Davis administration hopes to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), making the university eligible to receive a federal grant to support a number of academic and student success programs. Though the title does not necessarily guarantee the funding, if given, UC Davis will apply for the grant in the following winter, in hopes of being awarded by the grant the next spring.

Multiple community colleges within California have already been designated as HSIs, and UC Davis will host several of these schools at an upcoming conference discussing student success in February.

Hispanics, defined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census as people of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South American, Central American or other Spanish culture or origin make up at least 40 percent of the student population at most of these community colleges and 52 percent of the K-12 at California public schools.

“We want to look at how we could possibly accelerate the enrollment growth for this particular demographic at UC Davis,” said Associate Vice Chancellor of Admissions and Enrollment Planning Walter Robinson. “Not for the sake of parody but for the sake of social responsibility.”

UC Davis’ undergraduate Hispanic population is 18.5 percent of the student body and is steadily increasing. To reach HSI status, this number must become at least 25 percent.

All outreach activities to recruit these new students originate out of Robinson’s office, and according to Robinson, the university’s administration has invested significant time and energy into articulating the value of a UC Davis education in rural and other communities with high concentrations of Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino students.

Second-year Sabrina Sanchez, a Chicana/Chicano studies and communication double major and the holistic retention coordinator at the Student Recruitment and Retention Center (SRRC), is supportive of the university’s push for Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino students to attend college.

“I think this process of becoming an HSI has the potential to open up dialogue about student recruitment,” Sanchez said. “There could be a more open discussion about how administration and students can work together on it.”

However, Sanchez does remain concerned about what the university will do to ensure that these students stay in school.

“Obviously we want more Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino students to pursue higher education. That’s needed, especially in California,” Sanchez said. “But unfortunately the Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino community has one of the lowest retention rates in the university. Who is assessing our retention needs for us now? That problem won’t be fixed if we add more students. We need an action plan for the students to stay in school.”

While Robinson believes that a retention model is necessary, he also said that the administration is still in the early phases of the process. In Sanchez’s opinion, leaders of other communities on campus have been able to work closely with administration on their retention needs in ways that her community has not been able to.

Fourth-year Maria Salazar, Chicana/Chicano studies and psychology double major and Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino community coordinator at the Cross Cultural Center, met with Timo Rico, former associate director of recruitment within undergraduate admissions, to discuss these concerns during last Fall Quarter. Salazar said the meeting was not as fruitful as she had hoped because the HSI process was still being formulated.

In contrast, Robinson adds that the administration is very deliberate about the university’s plan to retain students and that collaboration with other departments on-campus is necessary. Specifically, administrators plans to work with Student Academic Success Center, the Department of Chicana/Chicano studies and the SRRC. According to Robinson, retention efforts are necessary because other California institutions have hit the 25 percent benchmark but then lost funding because of an inability to retain students.

“Of course, losing the funding isn’t the worst thing that could happen,” Robinson said. “But the worst thing that could happen is losing those students.”

In order to solicit information and input from the community regarding their concerns about the HSI initiative, the administration has hosted a number of open forums. These forums have been led by Rico in the past, but will now be administered by Robinson, who plans to take a more direct role in the initiative.

Held every other week this academic year, these community forums were originally set to take place in the Walter A. Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center. However, Luis Corrales, who is a third-year psychology and English double major and community relations intern for the Department of Chicana/Chicano studies, along with Salazar and Sanchez, convinced administration to move the events to the Student Community Center (SCC) in order to make them more accessible to the students they are intended to cater to.

As a liaison between the department and the Chicana/Chicano student community on-campus, Corrales feels that students should be aware of changes that could affect them. The forums are supposed to give all students an opportunity to ask questions about UC Davis’ plan to become a HSI, but he also feels they cannot do so without enough information on the subject.

“I try to relay a lot of the information I get to our community. There is not a lot of transparency from the administration,” Corrales said. “We really have to investigate what they’re saying. Sometimes it can be confusing or kept under wraps. Like when we ask where the money from the grant will be going, the answer we get is that ‘experts are looking into it.’”

The money the university could receive would not be designated solely for Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino students, but would be put towards funding resources for the entire campus and its population. Robinson believes there are two possible pathways for resources based on the type of funding the university pursues.

“One type of funding is so we can build capacity and the other is to build stronger infrastructure,” Robinson said. “We would want to go after the funds that allow us to hire more faculty, have more tutorial services, more services for first-generation and low-income students of all persuasions.”

In order to make details about the HSI initiative more transparent to UC Davis students, Corrales, Salazar and Sanchez hosted an open Town Hall meeting on Jan. 12 in the SCC. According to Sanchez, many students have heard of the term, but are unclear about its implications.

“Ultimately, what I’m really hoping for is that we become an HSI,” Corrales said. “But I want it to help students that identify as Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino through student success programs and such, instead of having the money that we receive from the grant go into projects or programs that don’t affect students directly,” she said.

Designed by CA Aggie Graphic Design Team
Designed by CA Aggie Graphic Design Team

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