UTEP Celebrates Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week
Last Updated on September 15, 2020 at 12:00 AM
Originally published September 15, 2020
By Pablo Villa
The University of Texas at El Paso joins more than 500 institutions throughout the country this week in marking National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week, a national observance celebrated Sept. 14-20, 2020, that coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month and acknowledges the critical role HSIs play in educating and empowering Hispanics.
The celebration is organized by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, an organization that works with members of Congress each year to recognize the contributions of HSIs in their communities. The federal designation of Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) was defined by the Higher Education Act and stipulates an institution must have an undergraduate Latinx enrollment of at least 25%. HSIs include private, two- and four-year, and nonprofit degree-granting institutions. As of 2019, there are 539 HSIs in the United States.
UTEP has had a Hispanic student majority since 1986 and met the threshold to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution in 1992, the year this designation was first recognized by the Higher Education Act. With a Hispanic student population of more than 80%, UTEP stands as an exemplar among HSIs. It is one of only 12 HSIs designated as an R1 top tier doctoral research university by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. UTEP is one of nine institutions of higher education in 2019 to earn the inaugural Seal of Excelencia in Education, a certification that recognizes a high level of commitment to serve Latino students.
In summer 2020, UTEP established a Hispanic Servingness Working Group to work with campus units to build and strengthen the University’s identity as an HSI and further elevate its national profile; recommend intentional approaches and services that further support holistic student success; and establish related accountability measures. Hispanic servingness is a term used in recent scholarship to describe the dimensions of what it means to serve students. Hispanic servingness values inclusion, not exclusion. It is premised on the assumption that when one student is elevated, all students are elevated — improving the lives of those who need it most improves the lives of all other students, and that of faculty, staff, and the community at-large.
“UTEP has been lauded for its commitment to improving retention and graduation rates and for leading the way in fostering social mobility,” said Lucia Dura, Ph.D., co-chair of the Hispanic-Servingness Working Group. “Behind these achievements are extraordinary planning efforts and everyday practices resulting in holistic student success. UTEP has unique attributes that go unnoticed. For example, our entering student survey showed that 43.5% of entering students last fall are comfortable speaking English and Spanish. This is remarkable.”
UTEP leaders are working to create well-informed, well-versed students who are engaged in their academic pursuits. Revamped academic advising is one component of this mission. In 2017, UTEP was awarded $1.2 million by The University of Texas System Board of Regents to implement a new holistic, cohort-based advising model.
The initiative includes strategically redesigned advising efforts that are initiated in the UTEP Academic Advising Center through a student’s first 45 credit hours. One unique component of this advising model is a pilot program that incorporates Master of Social Work student interns who are embedded with advisers to work with students on their financial literacy.
Working through college is a proud UTEP tradition. As key contributors to the UTEP community, on-campus student employees purposefully connect to faculty, staff and fellow students, grow personally and professionally, and offset their educational costs. Learn more at utep.edu/edge.
UTEP’s student employment experience is another effort in keeping students engaged. While the full benefits of student employment are difficult to model, University leaders contend that working on campus, with higher pay than most comparable jobs outside of the University, means a student is on campus more, is able to work fewer hours, and is less likely to miss class.
There numerous ways in which UTEP administrators, faculty, staff and students champion Hispanic student success on campus and prepare students to make significant contributions to their professions and communities, and champion the responsibilities of civic life. To learn more about UTEP’s efforts in serving Hispanic students, please contact Lucia Dura or Louie Rodriguez, co-chairs of the Hispanic Servingness Working Group, at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, respectively.