Who does WC really serve? Part 2
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Alejandra Roggero
Last week’s coverage stated there are certain hoops that need to be jumped through in order for a college or university to receive federal funding as a Hispanic-serving Institution. President Linda Oubré shared in a statement to the QC last week that “In order to be named an Hispanic-serving Institution (HSI), an institution must have a Latin student population of at least 25 percent, be accredited by the Department of Education, and have 50 percent of its student population receive federal financial assistance, among other criteria.” This funding, despite what many of the Latinx students we have spoken to may think, allows for the College to “apply for certain federal grants” such as Title V of the Higher Education Act, which, according to President Oubré, is “a federal program that provides funding opportunities to HSIs.” 

In terms of where this HSI funding is going, President Oubré continued to share with the QC that in 2015, “the College applied for and was awarded a $2.6 million Title V designated grant to support the success of underrepresented students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and to enhance the College’s instructional and research capacity in STEM. The Advancing STEM Academic Program (ASAP), housed in the SLC, is funded by this grant, and works collaboratively with CAAS (Center for Academic Advising Services) and the Weingart Center for Career and Professional Development to support the academic and professional growth of STEM students by helping them identify campus resources and secure research and internship opportunities.” Though many Latinx on campus feel the College is not doing enough for them, President Oubré assures that the College is “continually exploring other funding opportunities to create new opportunities for our students, including our Latinx students.”

One of Oubré’s “strategic initiatives” as the new President of the College is to “ensure that [all] students are successful.” Oubré is proud of how diverse our student body is, as it “represents the future of [the U.S.], and, in particular, she is proud of our Latinx students who are “graduating at impressive rates.” Oubré understands, though, that numbers and percentages are not everything, and that there should  be more ways the College measures its success in terms of supporting its Latinx majority population. When asked in what specific ways the College serves our Latinx Poets, whether that be financially, emotionally, culturally, or in other ways, Oubré said her partial funding of Cultural Graduation “was one small way” she could ensure the Latinx students on campus, and the other minorities represented in Cultural Graduation, that “the College appreciated and supported their efforts in organizing these impressive events.” In terms of physical ways of representing this success, “it is also important [to me] that our faculty and senior leadership are as diverse as our students, which is why [I have] made it a priority to diversify our candidate pipeline and hires,” Oubré said. “In order to properly serve our students we must have leaders that look like them.”

President Oubré is also “continually looking to create additional scholarships that will benefit all [Poets], including students of color.” Understanding that many of our students have to work during the summer, Oubré has helped create numerous fellowships that “help students afford to take on a summer internship or research opportunity.” If students are having trouble accessing information about these opportunities, Oubré suggests visiting The Center for Career and Professional Development and the Fellowships Office, and speaking with Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Sylvia Vertrone. Vertrone and these offices are “great for students who need extra help figuring out how to apply for these types of opportunities,” Oubré said. 

Other valuable resources on campus include the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI), which, according to Oubré, “offers students from all marginalized groups a safe space to explore topics and to find ways to constructively deal with issues on a campus-wide level.” As shared in last week’s article, our Latinx Poets have found the most comfort behind the doors of the OEI, in many cases attributing this sense of comfort specifically to Director of the OEI Jenny Guerra.

For any Latinx students who have not been exposed to the programs or events put on by the OEI, these events are designed with Latinx students in mind. “The OEI team designs programs that provide [Latinx] students a space to make sense of their experiences that generates engagement and enhances success,” says Guerra. The OEI collectively recognizes how important it is for our Latinx students to have their family involved in their college experience, and because of this, they strive to “keep the Latinx families engaged and feel welcomed on campus.” 

Events and resource opportunities that the OEI have hosted to support these claims include the Spanish-language sessions during Orientation, Admitted Students Day, summer registration, Whittier Weekend, and the Latinx Graduation, as well as the sessions they have hosted during Orientation for first-generation students and their families. At this session in particular, “current first-generation Poets share their experience, successes, and advice on how to navigate the college experience,” said Guerra. 

On top of the programs and events the OEI organizes, the office also leads the Alianza de Los Amigos Martin Ortiz Fellowship, which, according to Guerra, “provides an opportunity for one first, second, or third-year to complete an internship or research project related to economic development and the general improvement of the human condition.” What might be the most important part of this fellowship opportunity, according to Guerra, is that it is “directed at students who identify as Latinx from any major,” and who also “have a firm career interest in public service.” The office’s goal is “to empower students to find their community on campus and connect them to various support services on campus.” These include the Advancing STEM Academic Program, the Center for Academic Advising, the Career Center, the Counseling Center, and the Financial Aid Office. “We have developed programming, including workshops, for faculty and staff to learn how to support the holistic needs of our Latinx students. The UndocuAlly and LGBTQIA+ Ally trainings are offered each semester for faculty and staff and/or by departmental request. The UndocuPoet Peer Ally training is a new initiative in the OEI that was offered this semester for student leaders due to students advocating for a need of awareness and advocacy for the undocumented community. The training will be open for all students next academic year,” Guerra says. 

 When I asked Guerra how she would respond if Latinx students on campus still felt like the College was not doing enough to support their needs, Guerra said, “If students did not feel the institution was doing enough to support them, we would be happy to create a space to hear their concerns and their perspectives and assess what students really need. We might assume we know what our Latinx students need, but it’s best to hear from them directly.” 

I encourage all Latinx students on campus to visit the OEI and the President’s Office to hear more about their programs, and to share your concerns around this issue — whether they be on specific topics, such as our lack of Latinx professors, or more general concerns or even questions — because, as we have seen in our community’s history, nothing comes to us easily. In most cases, we have had to demand for our rights and act. No one will advocate for us better than ourselves.