National Hispanic Heritage Month and Hispanic Serving Institution Week converge

Photo: Graduate with Latinx stole, arms raised, cheering

Graduate cheering at 2019 commencement

September 15, 2021

CSUMB’s “Strength Through Diversity” awareness campaign aims to build on our ongoing commitment to inclusive excellence. Stories, social media posts, and special events throughout the academic year will celebrate diversity and highlight the many identity groups represented by the students, faculty, staff, and alumni that make up the CSUMB community. National Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

By Walter Ryce

September 15 marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs through Oct. 15 (Sept. 15 is also independence day for several Central American countries). This week also commemorates Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Week, which the White House recognized with a proclamation on Sept. 13.

Jacinto M. Salazar III is CSUMB’s transfer student success coordinator.

“During both HSI Week and Hispanic Heritage Month, it is important for the campus community to learn about the student population that makes the HSI designation possible,” Salazar said.

CSUMB, which has been an HSI since 1998, has a number of programs underway to celebrate and elucidate HSI Week.

“The federal government defines an HSI as not-for-profit, degree granting colleges and universities that enroll at least 25% Latinx students,” Salazar said. “Once we move beyond the official definition, there is a great variety of interpretations as to what constitutes an HSI.”

That could take into account equitable retention and graduation rates, or culturally relevant curriculum and campus life.

As an HSI, CSUMB has received millions of dollars for staffing, faculty and student services to support all students intentionally and comprehensively, he said.

Some highlights of CSUMB’s history as an HSI include:

  • Being awarded a number of Title III and Title V grants. The Center for Student Success, Transfer Student Success Center, and the Cooperative Learning Center (CLC) originated from such grants.
  • Collaborative grants with local community college partners — Cabrillo, Gavilan, Hartnell, and MPC — which are also HSIs.
  • The MAESTROs project with Hartnell College which expands student support structures to fulfill teacher workforce needs, and the METAS suite of interventions centered around student transitions that span student affairs and academic affairs.

In addition to structural support, the HSI designation also brings an affirming message, according to Maria Joaquina Villaseñor, a professor of Chicanx-Latinx Studies in the School of Humanities and Communication.

“HSIs offer Latinx young people a valuable combination of opportunity, access, community and belonging,” Villaseñor said. “Opportunity and access without a sense of community and belonging, can be alienating and can hinder not only academic success, but more importantly, well being. HSIs are intentional about the way they serve Latinx students. They name their commitment to those students, and maintain the conditions within which Latinx students can thrive.”

Salazar said that staff, faculty and administrators often work behind the scenes to support Latinx students and improve academic outcomes. 

“Latinx students and the communities they come from, especially in the tri-county area,” he said, “play a critical role in the success of the university, our local area, and the country.”