As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, I have been reflecting on what it means to work at a Hispanic-Serving Institution such as San Diego State University.
The federal program that grants Hispanic-Serving Institutions status looks at how universities serve first generation, majority low-income Hispanic students.
But, I’m thinking that our service to “the Hispanic community” (surely an over-simplification of a diverse group!) should be a broader effort that goes beyond students themselves to serve also their communities of origin.
According to the Pew Research Center
, more than 54.1 million Hispanics call the United States home — that’s 17 percent of the U.S. population. Furthermore, “more than 35 million Latinos speak Spanish at home," with 38 percent indicating Spanish as their dominant language, 25 percent indicating English-language dominance, and 36 percent indicating bilingual dominance.
Given these figures, it makes sense that a university seeking to serve the broader population of Hispanics ought to train members of the future workforce to be competent in both Spanish and English.
And we’re doing just that in the School of Journalism & Media Studies.
Funded by a $25,000 initial grant from the Public Relations Society of America Foundation, we piloted in spring 2014 a Spanish/English bilingual course in mass media writing for students planning to major in journalism, advertising and public relations. In spring 2015, we’ll continue this effort with an upper-division, elective course on Spanish-language and Latino media.
Why? It’s not just about serving Hispanic students majoring in our School’s academic programs. It’s about training media professionals of the future to be Spanish/English-fluent. Our students today are the people who tomorrow will report the news, create the ads, and build relationships between organizations and publics. Imagine the news not reported, the ads not created, and the relationships not built — just because most media professionals lack the linguistic skills to do this work!
Bilingual, biliterate and bicultural fluency is not restricted to one’s ethnic heritage or language of origin. Anyone can learn such competence, and those who achieve it will not only have a competitive advantage on the job market, but also be better positioned to serve the public.
And that kind of service, I believe, is what it truly means to work not just at a Hispanic Serving Institution, but at a public institution like San Diego State.
Bey-Ling Sha is professor and interim director of the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University. She is an internationally known public relations scholar who has done research on three continents, in English, French and Mandarin Chinese.
This story is a part of a series "Aztec Voices,"
featuring personal stories from SDSU faculty, staff and students about their discoveries; academic-related travel; aha! moments; long-term projects finally coming to fruition; or transformational experiences. If you would like to submit a column for "Aztec Voices," please contact SDSU's Marketing and Communications department