The largest private Catholic university in the nation seeks to emerge as a Hispanic-Serving Institution with Latino students making up 2,993 of DePaul’s University undergraduate student population, 703 of its incoming freshman class and 246 of its transfer students as of fall of 2020.
Earlier this month the faculty council at DePaul University informed its members of the university’s current goal to form a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) task force to help the university qualify for a federal Title V name as a Hispanic-Serving Institution with associated funding. Four of DePaul’s full-time faculty members will be joining the task force to aid in the preparation of DePaul’s federal Title V application and to plan a strategy to allow the school to become a HSI.
“If we become an HSI, I would like to see DePaul expand and enhance the ways in which we serve Latinx students to help them really thrive,” said Bill Johnson González, an associate professor of English at DePaul.
González, who has taught U.S. Latino and American Studies at Harvard University and Wesleyan University, believes that DePaul becoming an HSI will impact the university significantly as it will recognize the importance of Latinx students to the university as a whole.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, an institution of higher education is required to have an enrollment of undergraduate, full-time-equivalent students that is made up of at least 25 percent Hispanic students at the end of the award year immediately preceding the date of application, to be considered a Hispanic-Serving Institution. About 21 percent of DePaul’s current undergraduate students are Latino.
“DePaul would have to have an undergraduate enrollment that is at least 25 percent Latinx,” González said. “We are close to that number, but not there yet — and our numbers are continually growing.”
He said that applying for HSI status will provide DePaul an opportunity to be more self-conscious and proud about their successes — and cognizant of the work they still have to do to make the university a welcoming place where all students of color can thrive.
At the moment, the university is considered an emerging HSI. The HSI Task Force will be led by Elizabeth Ortiz, vice president of Institutional Diversity and Equity.
Ortiz said in a statement that the purpose of the HSI task force is to prepare DePaul’s federal Title V application and to plan a proactive strategy to enable the university to become a Hispanic-thriving institution where Latinx students find support, are retained and graduate.
Russell Dorn, a spokesperson for the university, said there will be a wide range of effects if the university does become an HSI.
“If awarded, Title V funds will be utilized to create high-impact support systems, provide instructional support and invest in faculty development to improve retention and graduation outcomes,” he said. “The designed supports will be open to all students, including other minoritized populations. These high-impact practices will help all students who need such assistance to succeed and thrive at DePaul.”
González hopes that the additional resources DePaul would receive will allow the university to continue to advocate for greater diversity across the board — especially to ensure that Black students, Indigenous students, students of color and students with financial need have the required resources to thrive, he said.
“As my colleagues Dr. Liz Ortiz and José Perales have mentioned to me, this would be an opportunity to help DePaul become a place where Latinx students not only succeed — they thrive,” González said. “We would become eligible to apply for grants that would help us enhance our academic offerings and create new educational opportunities for students.”
Expanding the numbers of Latino faculty and staff on campus to widen the number of courses DePaul offers is an initiative that González would like to see come to pass.
“The Department of Latino and Latin American studies contains nationally recognized, powerhouse faculty,” González said. “DePaul is truly a leader in this field, but we need more faculty to keep up with the demand for courses in this area.”
Like González, DePaul student Jessica Camacho Rivera, the president of Tepeyac, an organization with the purpose to serve the Latino students at DePaul, said she’s interested in seeing more safe spaces that are accessible for Latino students, faculty and staff.
“I hope these spaces can be coordinated by Latinx faculty and staff, spaces for and by the Latinx community, and to see more Latinx faculty and staff,” Camacho Rivera said. “ I would as well like to see more accessible and affordable opportunities for undergrad and post-baccalaureate education.”
An increase in programs that are easily attainable and highly promoted to inform Latino students will be ideal to see on campus as an HSI, she mentioned.
As a leader of one of DePaul’s cultural groups, Camacho Rivera said that becoming an HSI will allow organizations like Tepeyac the opportunity to grow, not only in participation numbers, but in strength as well.
“It will help students of color navigate college by building community and networking,” Camacho Rivera said. “It’s important as there will be more funding that ideally will be directed towards programs, resources, and services for the Latinx community at DePaul.”