Becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution With the Help of Latino Alumni
Photo Credit: Judy Baca ©2012, Gente del Maiz
ith an unwavering commitment to its role as a public institution, UCLA's message is clear: building a campus that embraces and celebrates its Latinx communities isn't just a goal, but an imperative.
Chancellor Block recently announced the University's intention to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) by 2025, in an effort to strengthen access and expand opportunities for UCLA’s Latino community. He shared, “As a public institution, UCLA has a heightened obligation to ensure that we are doing all we can to make sure this is a campus that truly welcomes members of our Latinx communities, honors their intellectual and cultural contributions and supports their success.”
HSI designation would be an important step in a movement that started in the Civil Rights era to increase Latino enrollment and expand educational opportunities. Because of this activism, the Chicano Studies Research Center was established in 1969 to foster research and study of Chicano/Latino culture, history and contributions.
In 1993, students, faculty and community members engaged in protests, including a two-week hunger strike, to advocate for the establishment of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UCLA. In the ʼ90s, the Regents of the University of California passed SP-1 and SP-2, which was followed by California Proposition 209, to prohibit preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in higher education. And recently, the Supreme Court ended higher education race-conscious admissions.
Today, Latinos make up 40% of California’s population, the state’s largest ethnic group. This dynamic and diverse community is a major force in California and the nation. Hispanic and Latino students have historically been underrepresented in higher education, and their success is intricately linked to California’s future prosperity. However, many Latino students have faced systemic barriers to a high-quality education, and their high school graduation rate is below the national average.
HSI designation requires new strategies and broad community-based efforts to support and empower California’s future Latinx leaders. The UCLA Latino Alumni Association (ULAA) are a passionate group of Bruin volunteers who are committed to supporting UCLA's Latino alumni, students and friends, and are an active partner in ensuring UCLA reaches this ambitious goal. One of UCLA’s fastest growing alumni groups; they were named as UCLA Alumni’s Network of the Year in 2019 for their exceptional contributions to the UCLA community.
Cesar Pacheco ʼ18, ULAA president and a commercial real estate professional, recognizes the group's unique position to bring people together. He says, “We’re a conduit for change. HSI is a University-wide movement, stretching across campus. We’re connecting with decision makers to increase our engagement and fundraising efforts.”
To be federally designated an HSI, 25% of students at the university must identify as Latinx. UCLA is currently at 22.2% Latino enrollment, as of fall 2022. With HSI designation, UCLA would receive federal grants to enhance educational programs for Latinx students, to the benefit of the entire campus community. HSI status has also been shown to enhance campus relationships among students, improve academic performance and raise graduation rates. But, as Chancellor Block reminds the community, enrolling greater numbers of Latinx students is not enough. He says, “UCLA also must enable these students to succeed by investing in academic and support infrastructure dedicated to their learning and growth.”
HSI designation requires not only meeting the enrollment numbers, but other requirements as well. Andres Snaider ‘88, ULAA university relations chair, says, “HSI is a rallying call. It’s a huge challenge, but it’s a huge opportunity as well. It emphasizes the priority of directing attention towards Latino students in all their dimensions ꟷ and how the University can best meet their needs.”
Snaider was a first-generation student and commuter who worked his way through UCLA. After graduating from law school, he became a business leader and entrepreneur. Recently, he successfully sold a company he had founded. The achievement presented an opportunity to give back to his community. He says, “I was able to make a difference in things I care about. My time at UCLA was a transformative experience for me.”
Snaider says, “It’s really hard to think of another organization [like ULAA] that has that kind of reach and that kind of commonality. It’s a huge network and there’s amazing potential to reach and make a difference for many people. What we do is help those students feel really connected to UCLA and all it has to offer.”
To invest in Latinx students, ULAA hosts career panels, networking and mentoring opportunities. ULAA’s Orgulloso mentorship program matches alumni with ULAA scholarship recipients and other Latinx students for one year, to help with professional development and personal growth. ULAA alumni share stories and provide insight from their personal experiences. Through engagement, they celebrate students and invest in the future generations. ULAA’s motto, "Hecho at UCLA," (made at UCLA) encapsulates the power of the college experience to create lasting change.
One example of a Bruin family making a difference in the lives of others are the Jaquez family — UCLA basketball players Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Gabriela Jaquez are the first brother and sister to make it to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for the same school in the same season. This fall, Jaime will make his NBA debut, playing for the Miami Heat. The siblings, their parents and grandparents have been strong proponents of public education, academic achievement and personal excellence. The Jaquez Family Scholarship Fund will provide financial support for incoming freshman and transfer students at UCLA, and was launched at a recent event hosted by the UCLA Alumni Association, ULAA and UCLA Athletics.
Since it was founded in 1989, ULAA has awarded $1.5 million in scholarships to more than 800 students. ULAA president, Cesar Pacheco was able to attend UCLA with the help of financial support. He says the goal of providing scholarships to others unites alumni with a common cause. “I received a Blue and Gold Scholarship that made it possible for me to graduate from UCLA. Had it not been for those donors, I wouldn’t have been able to. Now I’m able to make a difference for other students financially and through volunteering my time and leadership.”
In 2022-23, ULAA raised a record-breaking $241,000, bringing them closer to their fundraising goal of a $1 million scholarship endowment. This included $36,130 from a successful Spark crowdfunding campaign. The board recently approved an ambitious four-year plan to distribute approximately $125,000 to 41 students, increasing their reach and impact.
Jennifer Mora ʼ96 is vice president of ULAA. As a professional fundraiser, the work of raising scholarship support for UCLA’s Latinx students is close to her heart. Mora entered UCLA as a first-generation, non-traditional transfer student, who saw college as a transaction in her pursuit of a career. However, UCLA was more than a stepping stone on her career path. She says, “My experience taught me I was worthy and capable of a quality education. UCLA instilled in me a love for learning, so I describe myself as a lifetime learner. The opportunity to give back seemed the natural thing to do. There is nothing more exciting than to be able to help the organization with fundraising for scholarships for current UCLA students.”
UCLA’s HSI status will benefit the entire campus community. Denise Pacheco, M.A. ’04, Ph.D. ’11, is senior director of Diversity Programs and Initiatives for UCLA Alumni Affairs. She says, “The pursuit of becoming an HSI does not diminish UCLA’s equally important commitment to increasing representation for all students. When we become an HSI, it provides an infrastructure that will support the success of all students, and especially communities who are not appropriately represented on the campus. It's essential to emphasize that equity is about identifying what different communities need and how that contributes to the success of the whole.”
Looking toward the future, ULAA board members are enthusiastic about UCLA receiving HSI designation. Cesar Pacheco says, “The fact that the Chancellor is taking steps to become an HSI is indicative of the progress that’s already happening at UCLA. It is a bold move and requires real action. Through their action and our support it will happen for the betterment of the UCLA community and for Los Angeles.”
ULAA is continuing to build a strong presence on campus and beyond. Mora looks at the big picture through the frame of her personal experience. “It's exciting for me, because UCLA changed my life. It changed the trajectory of my family legacy and I believe everyone should have that opportunity. I think about all my family members who didn't have an opportunity to go to college, and the thought of being able to provide more access is long overdue. And I'm here to see it happen.”
As the culmination of their efforts, the HSI task force formed by Chancellor Block published Cultivating the Seeds of Change: Becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution, which provides more information about the history and process, as well as seven recommendations for achieving federal HSI designation.
More information can also be found by watching EmPower Hour: UCLA Efforts to Become a Hispanic-Serving Institution, hosted by Diversity Programs and Initiatives under UCLA Alumni Affairs.
Alumni who are interested in joining a committee, attending an event, making a donation, becoming a mentor ꟷ or any of the many ways UCLA Latino Alumni Association members are making a difference for UCLA students ꟷ can find more information here.
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