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UNC's Roadmap to HSI Designation Gains Momentum as Phase 3 Efforts get Underway

UNC's Latinx banners hanging outside Gunter Hall

September 16, 2022

As the University of Northern Colorado continues progress toward becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), it’s taking a moment to celebrate a key enrollment milestone. According to the university’s fall 2022 enrollment report, 25.5% of UNC's undergraduate students identify as Hispanic or Latinx; just over the 25% threshold required to apply for the federal HSI designation.  

For UNC, however, achieving HSI status has never been just about enrollment numbers. According to Tobias Guzmán, vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), the university’s five-year HSI initiative leans heavily on the essential work necessary to successfully plan for and build the infrastructure to serve Hispanic and Latinx-identifying students, not just enroll them.  

“Regardless of meeting the numerical threshold, we are still in the processes of refining and developing a roadmap that allows us to set the tone and establish what it looks like to be an HSI at UNC,” Guzmán said. “We don’t want to just simply enroll students, we want to make sure that we have infrastructure, policies and practices — and equally important our people — ready and situated to be a true Hispanic serving institution. That means also having the systems in place to retain and graduate students so those numbers stay stable.” 

The roadmap Guzmán refers to is the university’s HSI 2025 plan, first launched in fall 2020. Efforts since that time have been focused on identifying resource needs, facilitating conversations and providing education about HSIs to a variety of internal and external stakeholders, researching exemplar HSI institutions and programs and identifying preliminary strategy metrics and budget needs. During the plan’s second Discovery phase, which wrapped up at the end of the spring 2022 semester, UNC’s HSI working group made significant progress in aligning HSI key strategies to UNC’s strategic plan and engaging the university community and community stakeholders in several HSI and DEI initiatives. 

According to Guzmán, UNC’s third Pre-Implementation phase, which is expected to last through June 2024, will produce more visible actionable efforts as the university moves closer to submitting an application for official HSI designation. To that end, Guzmán has already put several things in motion,  including the appointment of two fellow positions to provide leadership and serve as a liaison to and resource for faculty and staff throughout the HSI initiative. Cristóbal (Chris) Garcia, associate director in the Office of Alumni Relations has been appointed staff fellow for HSI initiatives and Jonathan Alcantar, associate professor and chair of UNC’s Chicana/o and Latinx Studies program has been appointed as faculty fellow for HSI initiatives.  

Other key progress that has already begun in phase three is the formation of a campus-wide HSI steering committee with representation from all colleges and university divisions. The purpose of the steering committee is to carry on the preliminary work of the HSI working group that was established in phases one and two. Guzmán encourages UNC students, faculty and staff to apply to join the steering committee, serving on one of several subcommittees that will focus on specific opportunities and institutional needs. 

Other key outcomes expected from phase three include the following: 

  • Use data from past surveys, including the HSI/DEI survey launched last February, and EAB to determine future actions and critical areas of emphasis for HSI preparation and readiness.
  • Articulate UNC's working definitions of HSI and servingness to ensure uniformity across campus and to offer a common point of reference for future planning, action steps and performance measurement. 
  • Develop programmatic initiatives that are coordinated across campus, aligned to the mission and servingness definition, and that reflect UNC's Hispanic/Latinx culture.
  • Increase campus communication and establish avenues for communicating objectives, plans and tactics relevant to establishing an HSI.
  • Identify particular campus units for culturally responsive professional development in order to increase and maintain the number of Hispanic/Latinx students, faculty and staff at UNC. Admissions, financial aid, and academic affairs leadership are examples of such positions.
  • Attend the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) conference and ask important campus constituents to participate in order to improve learning, networking and professional ties within the HACU organization.
  • Work with University Advancement to design a strategy to increase development activities, alumni and community involvement and multilingual institutional communication and marketing efforts related to HSI implementation.
  • Gather current data and construct a set of metrics and objectives as the university prepares for pre-application for the federal HSI designation. 
  • Investigate competitive HSI grant funding options with UNC’s Office of Research and Special Projects, faculty and staff. This will also help to clarify capacity-building requirements when applying for highly competitive funding when HSI designation is realized. 

To stay up to date on UNC’s progress toward becoming and HSI, subscribe to the new quarterly newsletter, Noticias HSI. The first edition launches Sept. 20, 2022. 

— written by Deanna Herbert

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