September 30, 2022

Thanks to its continuing support of Latino students, Arizona State University has again earned the Seal of Excelencia from the Washington, D.C.-based organization Excelencia in Education.

In 2019, ASU was in the inaugural group of nine institutions to earn the new Seal of Excelencia, a prestigious, voluntary and comprehensive certification granted by Excelencia in Education, an organization devoted to Latino student success.

“It was an honor to accept our recertification as a Seal of Excelencia university,” said Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost in accepting the award at an event on Friday.

“In 2019, ASU was recognized for our commitment to the success of our Latino students when we were among the first cohort of universities in the country to receive the seal.

“Our commitment has only deepened and, as a result, the success of our students has only accelerated since that inaugural year of this recognition. It brings me great pride to represent the work of so many dedicated staff and faculty at ASU whose programs and initiatives have contributed to this important distinction.”

The seal recognizes an institution’s high level of commitment and effort to serve Latino students, and is in addition to ASU’s designation earlier this year as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Seal of Excelencia is based on several factors, including data, such as enrollment of Latino students and representation among faculty, as well as programs to support Latino students and leadership in recruitment, professional development and communications.

“Year over year, ASU welcomes more students from Latino backgrounds, many of whom are our Arizona resident neighbors,” said Matt López, associate vice president for academic enterprise enrollment and the executive director of admission services.

“Our admission team and the entire university community works tirelessly to outreach and counsel these students and their supporters on how ASU wants to be a partner in their lives. We are steadfast in our charter commitment to measure ourselves by the success of those who chose ASU as their higher education home.”

In 2022, ASU’s Hispanic students made up 26% of the on-campus undergraduate population, up from about 20% in fall 2012. ASU Online has also seen growth among Hispanic students, accounting for nearly 23% of total undergraduate online learners in fall 2022.

In terms of actual numbers of students, ASU has more than 16,840 Hispanic undergraduate students among its fall 2022 immersion population, compared with about 10,650 in fall 2012.

When all students — undergrad and graduate, immersion and online — are included, ASU's Hispanic enrollment stands at more than 31,800 students, a big increase from the roughly 12,880 such students in fall 2012.

The number of full-time faculty members who are Hispanic increased 23% from 2015 to 2021, and about 8% of ASU’s full-time faculty in 2021–22 were Hispanic. In addition, 12% of the academic chairs and directors are Latino and two of the three executive vice presidents are Latina: Provost Gonzales and Maria Anguiano, who leads ASU’s Learning Enterprise.

ASU has several initiatives, long-standing and more recent, to recruit and support Latinos. Here’s a look at some of them.

ASU President’s Postdoctoral Fellowships and Presidential Graduate Assistantships

These programs, launched in fall 2020, are part of ASU’s commitment to Black students, faculty and staff, but also have been successful in recruiting Latino scholars. To date, 32 Presidential Graduate Assistants and nine President’s Postdoctoral Fellows have been recruited. Latino scholars make up 31% of the first cohort of graduate assistants and 44% of the postdoctoral fellows.

Krystlelynn Caraballo, who researches how the law influences victimization among foreign nationals in America, is in the first cohort of Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows at ASU. When she came in the spring 2022 semester, she told ASU News that the university’s charter caught her attention.

“This idea that you succeed by who you include and not exclude is something that feels so foreign to me, being a woman of color and someone who has experienced so much discrimination in so many areas of my life,” she said in March.

“I did more research and I realized that ASU does not ask about status, so there are undocumented students who are allowed to pursue higher education here. That was the icing on the cake. This is where I want to be. This is a university that really aligns with my ideals. We should never, as a society, deny anyone the opportunity to obtain higher education and basic necessities such as health care. For ASU to be so welcoming to this incredibly marginalized population, I was sold.”

Caraballo, who is Puerto Rican American, has “she / her / Dra. / Latina” in her email signature and Zoom title.

“Whenever you see my name written, it’s ‘Dra.’ and there’s a specific reason for that,” she said.

“Spanish is a gendered language. In our society, and in academia specifically, there’s a push for diversifying and engaging in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Part of that is having an increase in cultural competency. So I’ve had a number people who see ‘Dra.’ and say, ‘Your title is spelled wrong.’ I am Latina and I identify as female, and therefore, the correct way to say ‘doctor’ is ‘doctora’ or ‘Dra.’

“Given that ASU is a Hispanic-Serving Institution, it’s a small way of acknowledging our cultural heritage.”

Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program

Started in 1984, this college-readiness program is one of the oldest initiatives for Latino families and has expanded to include families of any ethnic background with a son or daughter who aspires to be first-generation college student.

The five-year program now serves about 1,000 students and 1,000 family members, according to Alex Perilla, director of the American Dream Academy at ASU.

“What parents really want is to expose their kids to the university,” he said. “And it’s a great opportunity for kids to spend time with their parents.”

About 90% of the students in the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program from 2012 to 2017 pursued a college degree, and 63% of them attended ASU.

Four-year college graduation rates for those in the program were around 58%, higher than for other Latino students and even among all Arizona residents.

The courses, which start in eighth grade and go through 12th, teach families how to prepare for college academically, such as what courses to sign up for in high school and how to manage time, as well as how to acquire scholarships and financial aid.

Deyanira Galaviz-Arguelles, a second-year student at ASU, participated in the program with her older sister, who raised her.

“It created a stronger bond between us since neither of us knew what we were doing and we were both kind of scared and nervous about the process, but we were figuring it out together,” said Galaviz-Arguelles, who is majoring in tourism development with a concentration in meetings and events.

“I always say that if I had not been in the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program, I would not have gotten into ASU,” she said. “It was the biggest blessing of my life.”

Galaviz-Arguelles is still learning skills through her work as a volunteer with the program.

“I was media trained, and I learned how to be on social media and how to be interviewed and how to do events,” she said.

“When I was part of it, it was mostly girls. I think it’s nicer now that’s it’s all inclusive, all for everybody.”

Latino Partnership Scholars

This initiative comprises five community organizations: Chicanos Por La Causa, Si Se Puede Foundation, ASU Los Diablos Alumni Chapter, ASU Hispanic Business Alumni Chapter and the ASU Chicano/Latino Faculty & Staff Association.

Those groups work with ASU to award scholarships to ASU students. Since the 2011–12 academic year, the program has served 589 unique students, and more than 50% are the first in their families to attend college. More than 430 degrees have been awarded, and the average GPA for degree recipients was 3.39.

Alyssa Lizarraga, a third-year student majoring in psychology, is a Los Diablos Scholar.

“I applied my senior year of high school, not thinking I would get it because I had more of a trajectory for community college, but my mom pushed me,” she said.

“Throughout my life, I was embedded in my Hispanic culture — I did Mexican folkloric dance and I had a ton of ways I was in the Hispanic community, and I wanted to be part of a scholarship that represented that, so that’s what involved me to apply. I had a cultural background I wanted to represent.”

The scholarship was enormously helpful.

“It allowed me to live on campus my first year of college, which was amazing and I didn’t think would be possible, and it allowed me to get a job I like instead of one that pays the bills,” said Lizarraga, who works at Dream Zone, an organization that supports undocumented students.

She would like to be a therapist.

“There is a stigma within Hispanic cultures about mental health support. It’s not really a thing,” she said.

“When I was growing up, that was something I had to overcome within my family dynamic.

“I’d like to be able to be at the front of my community saying, ‘Everyone deserves mental health support.’”

César E. Chávez Leadership Institute

This weeklong summer residential camp acclimates high school students to the university experience, offering college preparation, volunteer opportunities, leadership skills and networking.

The young people learn about social media and academic planning. And they also learn about César E. Chávez, who formed the United Farm Workers and was able to improve conditions for agricultural laborers.

Perilla, who led the institute this year, said that the relationships the teenagers form will endure.

“A lot of the presenters we brought in have been CCLI graduates,” he said.

“They get to know each other, and some of them have been around for 25 years, which is remarkable.

“There’s lots of walking around campus,” Perilla said. “They need to feel what the campus is like and imagine themselves walking around campus as university students.”

Vanessa Ruiz, deputy vice president for outreach, said that ASU intentionally designs its student services and initiatives to be culturally responsive to the diverse student populations it serves.

“The programs that contributed to ASU’s recertification are the product of collaborations among ASU faculty experts and staff, our currently enrolled students, as well as trusted community partners — all working together with a shared goal of advancing degree attainment and success for Latino students,” she said.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News

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