As an institution of higher education, it is our responsibility to educate active and productive members of society. This responsibility includes, not only providing knowledge, skills and competencies, but also preparing the students to be full participants in an increasingly complex, global and diverse society. Research indicates that meeting the educational challenges of the 21st century global economy and society is enhanced by greater campus diversity. According to the Department of Education forecast, the enrollment of undergraduates in colleges and universities is expected to increase ~14% in the coming years. As a result of the demographic changes in the country, the profile of the students attending undergraduate institutions is also changing, resulting in increased campus diversity. The projected continuous growth in college enrollments provides the opportunity for universities to develop new strategies to ensure developing at its maximum the talents and minds of all students, including underrepresented minorities. Multiple studies suggest a diverse campus is not enough to achieve the educational benefits associated with diversity; it also requires a supportive environment that facilitates the full engagement of all groups in the educational process.
Hispanics/Latinos represent the most rapidly growing segment of the country’s population, and their numbers are expected to increase significantly in colleges and universities. Now is the right time to put in place strategies and initiatives that maximize the talents of all students, and facilitate the realization of their academic goals and career aspirations. Although the enrollment of Hispanics/Latinos in institutions of higher education in the U.S. keeps growing, the rate of college degree completion for this group is still lower than for other underrepresented minorities. While the number of Hispanics/Latinos at VCU is increasing, they are not yet reflecting their differential state demographics. Supporting and sustaining a thriving Hispanic/Latino student population at VCU will enhance a campus environment in which all students will develop their cross cultural competencies, skills essential to succeed in an increasingly diverse domestic and global economy.
Given the current demographic trends, it is important to understand how to create a learning environment that will facilitate the success of Hispanic/Latino students at VCU. Institutional academic success is achieved when all students are provided the support needed to achieve/develop their maximum potential. We acknowledge that other underrepresented minorities, low-income and first-generation students face similar challenges to the Hispanic/Latino students, but we expect the findings and recommendations of this team will lead to institutional changes that will enhance the academic experience of a larger pool of VCU students.
The Hispanics/Latinos student advocacy and mentoring team is a new initiative launched by the College of Humanities and Sciences with the goal of enhancing the educational experience of the Hispanic/Latino students at VCU and fostering the development of thriving students who are fully engaged in the campus life. A thriving college student displays the following characteristics: is fully engaged in the learning process; has developed the skills to efficiently manage time, responsibilities and stress; has a positive outlook on their career choice and future aspirations; has meaningful connections to others in the campus community including within-group and across-group peers; and is committed to contribute to the community at large.
The immediate task of the team is to provide mentoring, advising and connections to the opportunities that will facilitate a successful academic experience. By reaching out, being accessible, and being responsive to all students, especially during their first year, the team will help the students navigate the stresses, pressures and demands of college life, and will better understand how those issues manifest among the VCU Hispanic/Latino students. The team members will act as role models by providing the support and guidance that will help the students to build the confidence and skills that lead to success and self-advocacy.
Faculty and staff with the common goal of providing a supportive environment where Hispanic/Latino students can thrive and successfully complete their degrees compose the team.