For nearly 20 years, Cal State Fullerton has embraced its designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, redefining what it means to champion Latinx student success by developing programs and services that support Latinx students and empower them to reach their goals.
Cal State Fullerton was designated a HSI by the U.S. Department of Education in 2004 for enrolling over 25% Latinx students. Today, Latinx students make up 50% of the university’s 41,000 student population.
In 2021, Excelencia in Education, one of the nation’s premier authorities on Latinx student success, recognized CSUF with the prestigious Seal of Excelencia for its leadership in engaging, enrolling and graduating Latinx students. That same year, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs named Cal State Fullerton one of its inaugural Fulbright Hispanic-Serving Institutions Leaders.
“In the 18 years I’ve been on campus, there has been a monumental amount of growth and change, and we’re still learning. The future of our Hispanic-Serving success is about providing students with opportunities to embrace their identity and fulfill their dreams,” said Alexandro Gradilla, associate professor of Chicana and Chicano studies.
Accelerating Latinx Student Success
Supported by national grants, CSUF has developed unique programs aimed at helping Latinx students succeed.
“It’s important that Latinx students see themselves in the curriculum and the opportunities on campus,” said Gradilla.
“Cal State Fullerton has exposed me to amazing professors and I’ve been able to take many eye-opening courses that have changed and educated me for the better,” said senior psychology student, Jasmine Bugarin.
These programs include:
- Project upGRADS (Utilizing and Promoting Graduate Resources and Access for Disadvantaged Students) is a five-year, $3 million federal grant that supports the academic achievement of Latinx and other underrepresented graduate students. Selected as one of 20 Examples of Excelencia finalists in the nation for 2022, the program seeks to improve enrollment, persistence and graduation for Latinx students.
- Project RAISE is funded by the U.S. Department of Education HSI-STEM grant that focuses on increasing the number of Latinx and low-income STEM students in higher education. Project RAISE students have access to hands-on research experiences, peer advising for transfer students, internship preparation and workshops.
- Funded by a $3 million Mellon Foundation grant, the university’s first Latinx Lab for Storytelling and Social Justice teaches students how to confront social inequity through the art of diverse storytelling.
- The Ánimo: Latinx Counseling Emphasis within the Department of Social Work trains bilingual and bicultural counselors to serve Latinx and Spanish-speaking clients and communities. Excelencia in Education named the program as one of 19 Examples of Excelencia Finalists in the nation for 2023.
- The Latino Communications Institute trains bilingual students to become Spanish-proficient in the communications field. Students develop cultural competency, receive mentorship from experienced faculty and explore research opportunities.
- The university received four California State University HSI community grants. Out of 17 funded programs throughout the CSU system, CSUF received the highest number of grants, supporting projects in mechanical engineering, humanities, education and theatre.
Support Beyond the Classroom
Outside of academics, students are encouraged to explore their identity and culture. These spaces allow students to fully embrace their identity and connect with a supportive community. The pride that students feel when they can truly be themselves is “powerful,” said Gradilla.
“That is the future of our Hispanic-Serving success,” he added. “Something else I’ve worked on and I’ve seen faculty across campus do as well is mentorship. That out-of-classroom experience, where faculty can provide advice, thoughts and opportunities, is important in making sure that students feel heard and ensuring they have someone to talk to.”
- The Latinx Community Resource Center, the oldest of CSUF’s ethnic centers, has been supporting students in the Latinx community for the past 50 years, offering programs that focus on the recruitment, retention and advancement of Latinx students.
- The U.S. Latinx science fiction collection in the Pollak Library is believed to be the first of its kind. Curated by science fiction scholar David Sandner, the collection is built on the thematic foundation of Latino race, immigration and post-colonialism and intersects with sci-fi storytelling strategies.
- Latinx Scholars is a student-led organization that promotes research, peer mentorship and social justice advocacy. “We realized that as transfer students and as first-generation college students, it isn’t easy navigating these processes and spaces. We have worked to create a community and space to help other students feel supported throughout their educational career,” said Ashley Yniguez, the club’s co-president and a master’s student in history with a concentration in Chicana and Chicano studies.
- CSUF is home to more than 15 student clubs and organizations relating to Latinx culture, community and student success.
“There is always work to be done, but we’ve made some significant strides,” said Gradilla.
Visit the Latinx Heritage Month website for more information on upcoming programs and events.