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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

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Task Force Reports on SDSU's Future as Hispanic-Serving Institution

The panel's report ties into SDSU's strategic plan.
By Jeff Ristine

A task force presented a detailed “plan of action” for San Diego State University to sustain its unique position as a transborder, Hispanic-Serving Institution while improving outreach and service the region’s Latinx community.

Delivering its findings in a report via Zoom in an April 22 “virtual town hall,” a panel of the Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Task Force said Latinx-enrolling and Latinx-serving are markedly different organizational identities, and carry different outcomes. SDSU at present occupies a middle categorization: Latinx-producing.

The report calls on SDSU to adopt a Latinx-serving identity in which the university would shift focus on the mere demographics of enrolling Latinx students, which is a common approach among HSIs.

SDSU President Adela de la Torre, who provided opening remarks during the town hall, said the report directly ties into SDSU’s proposed strategic plan, whose key activities are under review. The plan, available on the university’s Reimagining the Future: A Strategic Plan for SDSU site, will have implications “for decades to come,” de la Torre said.

“One priority in particular is our vision to elevate our stature as a premier research university, a new kind of HSI,” de la Torre said during the virtual town hall. “It’s really clear to me that, moving forward, it is not simply about serving in the best capacity our Hispanic students, but also looking at how we integrate our teaching and research so that it focuses on an impact for our community and the region, and the nation and the world.”

De la Torre established the task force in spring 2019. Members met over the course of nearly a year, conducted surveys, interviews and focus groups with faculty and staff as part of their work, and ratified their report in February.

The full, 33-page report can be found online.

The task force’s six recommendations, described in greater detail in the report text, call for SDSU to: 

Provide expanded support for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in advancing the recruitment, retention and climate for Chicano/a and Latinx faculty and staff.

  • Clearly communicate its role and responsibilities as an HSI and the strategies that will be implemented.
  • Require ongoing professional learning for students, faculty, and staff on Chicana/o and Latinx issues and the institution’s identity as an HSI.
  • Recruit and retain more Latinx faculty and staff.
  • Leverage the accessible resources available due to its HSI designation.
  • Work towards becoming a leader in Meso-American studies and transborder studies research.

The report also called for increased collaboration with and connection to SDSU Imperial Valley, which has an overwhelmingly Hispanic enrollment.

Roberto Hernández, SDSU’s chair of HSI Affairs, said that in addition to its specific recommendations, the task force hopes to see more alumni engagement, expanded community partnerships, and an enhanced focus on yield and retention efforts in attracting Latinx students. Each is a defined priority or activity in the university’s proposed strategic plan.

SDSU became an HSI in 2012, a designation by the U.S. Department of Education. HSIs must have at least a 25% enrollment of Hispanic undergraduate students and meet variable percentages of Pell Grant-eligible students.

Hispanic students represented 31% of SDSU’s fall 2019 enrollment. Although the benefit of the HSI designation is access to additional federal grants, Hernández said the task force found additional potential funding opportunities for SDSU. Faculty members need more training to do pursue such funds, he said.

It also called for increased collaboration with and connection to SDSU Imperial Valley, which has an overwhelmingly Hispanic enrollment.