The University of Redlands was recently designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) by the U.S. Department of Education. As a first-generation Latina who completed her education at an HSI, I know firsthand how much this will mean to our students and prospective students. When I graduated with my doctorate in 2020, my goal was to be hired at an HSI to continue to serve marginalized students and my community.
In my research when applying to the University of Redlands, I found, while it was not designated as an HSI, the data did not lie. The University of Redlands enrolls a large number of Hispanic/Latino/a/x students. In the past 15 years, the population of Latinx students at the U of R went from 15 to 37 percent of the student body, and the U of R is currently a “majority-minority” institution. With data in hand, I could continue my student advocacy because, in my heart, I knew one day, the University of Redlands would be an HSI.
The day has arrived, and I can proudly say that I work at an HSI once more. While I am excited, I acknowledge that this designation is not a quick fix but the first step of a long journey to serve our Hispanic/Latino/a/x students.
In sharing this monumental announcement with my network, I heard from two University of Redlands alumni who are Latinx—Fernando Villalpando ’16 (M.A., Education, with PPS credential) and Tania Orozco ’06 (B.A.), who was a double major in communication disorders and Spanish).
“As a U of R alum, I'm happy to see that the University of Redlands has received the Hispanic Service Institution designation,” Villalpando shared. “It was a long time coming since the demographic has been reflected more and more in the credential and graduate programs. In fact, many of our local Latinx educators have found U of R an excellent option to complete their credential and graduate programs. Now, [with] a campus-wide HSI designation, the University can be a focal point to our Latinx students to see U of R as a great option for quality education, sharing their stories, experiences, cultural wealth, and enrich the educational, cultural, and social experiences of all students at the University of Redlands. In the end, this benefits everyone.”
As a Student Development Coordinator and EOP Counselor for a local HSI institution, Villalpando added, “Many high school students would not look at U of R as an option because of multiple reasons. Cost being a major reason and a sense of belonging in a space where they didn't see themselves reflected. Now students will be able to create those spaces and have access to more grants and funds to alleviate the cost."
Orozco echoed this sentiment: “I hope that the increase of federal funds goes towards admitting more Latino students and providing support and guidance to ensure their success toward graduation. This also means pushing students to study beyond undergraduate degrees.”
The fact is the Latinx population and the number of Latinx students in higher education have progressively increased over the last 60 years. With this information, the University of Redlands must build a community where Latinx students will be happy from applicant to graduate. This HSI designation is one step of the journey.
The School of Continuing Studies is ready to take the next step. As the chair of the Latino/a/x/ Justice Certificate Committee, which is currently being convened, I can report we hope to bring forward coursework that will not only benefit our students but faculty, administration, and staff at the University of Redlands. The certificate deepens the understanding of the histories, cultures, and perspectives of the Latinx community, whose stories and experiences have long been marginalized. We hope to launch this program in fall 2022.