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CU Denver celebrates first Hispanic Heritage Month following Hispanic-Serving Institution designation

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Posted at 4:05 PM, Sep 16, 2022

DENVER – President Joe Biden recently designated the week of Sept. 12 as National Hispanic-Serving Institutions week.

In 2021, the U.S. Department of Education designated University of Colorado Denver as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) after the university’s percentage of enrolled students who identify as Hispanic reached 25%.

“It takes a lot of work. And what I really want to say about an HIS designation is that it's only the beginning of a process,” said Antonio Farias, CU Denver’s vice chancellor of diversity, equity and inclusion. “Just being designated an HSI, or an Hispanic-Serving Institution, doesn't mean much other than our numbers are at 25%. The challenge really is how do we actually serve our Hispanic students?”

Farias said CU Denver has been working on meeting that challenge in several ways.

“So what works for serving Hispanic students is really being culturally competent about what it means to be Hispanic,” Farias said. “Diversify our faculty and staff, right, and then also diversify our curriculum. Do students feel, as you move from one office to another, that your culture is validated here? History Colorado is a great example. You walk into History Colorado, everything is bilingual from the very beginning. It's not just in the Hispanic sort of wing of the of the museum, it's everywhere.”

CU Denver is a part of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities. Universities that are part of the alliance have a shared goal of doubling the number of Hispanic doctoral students and increasing the Hispanic professoriate by 20%.

CU Denver student Yahaira Hernandez said she chose the university for its diversity.

“I love that designation,” Hernandez said. “I love that we have a center for identity and inclusion, where not only does that include Hispanic individuals, it also targets and helps other individuals from different cultures and backgrounds. There's always a place for every student to be involved and to feel that they're part of the community.”

At a time when federal data shows Hispanic enrollment has fallen 7% at universities across the country, Hernandez and Farias said it’s important to recognize that Hispanic students are not a monolith and embracing their differences as well as similarities is key to creating a higher education environment that everyone feels comfortable learning in.