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Hispanic Americans -- Education (Higher) -- United States, Hispanic Americans -- Social conditions, Latin Americans -- Oregon -- Social conditions, Racial justice, Racism, Anti-racism, Student success, College environment, Identity (Psychology), College students


In the fall of 2009, Portland State University President Wim Wiewel commissioned a Task Force, and an associated Advisory Board composed of community stakeholders, to make strategic recommendations concerning how Portland State can best serve the higher education needs and aspirations of Oregon’s Latino community. President Wiewel further charged the Task Force to base its recommendations on the best research and evidence available and to consider the most effective investment of PSU resources.

The Task Force met monthly from September 2009 to May 2010. It reviewed the literature, studied relevant data, learned from the success of comparable institutions, and performed an internal audit of current Portland States activities and successes as a foundation for its work. The group organized its thinking via four stages of the pathway to student success: envisioning college, entering the gateway, staying in college, and succeeding after graduation.

• “Envisioning College” is the process by which students (as early as middle school) begin to formulate their views regarding whether college is in their future. The Task Force has equal regard for establishing new programs and strengthening existing ones; it is the principle of early intervention that is key.

• “Entering the Gateway” is the process by which a student moves through the gates of PSU to become an admitted, matriculated student. Some students come straight from high school as first-time, first-term (FTFT) college students; others transfer, usually from the community colleges. Both pathways have strong constituencies in the community; one should not be neglected for the other.

• “Staying in College” refers to the stage in which a student enrolls at PSU and begins the journey to graduation. The recommendations for this stage must be prioritized, as retention and graduation is above all the responsibility that most centrally belongs to PSU.

• “Success after College” is defined as both graduating from PSU and finding employment or applying to graduate school. For this stage, PSU should act to create and bolster the social capital of its students, especially those who are from underserved groups.

The Recommendations of the Task Force

1. Create community outreach programs to encourage middle school and high school students to envision attending college; make this system seamless from middle school to college for students and their families. Staff for these efforts should be Latina/o as well as bicultural and bilingual.

2. Hold college information sessions designed for Latino youth and their families at high schools, clearly outlining the steps to get into college and conducting regular follow-up meetings. Staff for these efforts should be Latina/o as well as bicultural and bilingual.

3. Create a well-staffed pathway from PSU’s feeder community colleges, expanding successful programs such as the dual admission program and providing support with admissions and financial aid applications.

4. Create a Latino cultural center on campus that will house bilingual and bicultural academic advisors, Latina/o outreach staff, and Latina/o student groups; allocate temporary space for such a center now.

5. Double the number of Latina/o faculty, advisors, and administrators over the next five years; establish a campus network to facilitate a feeling of community among Latinas/os at PSU; facilitate opportunities for Latina/o faculty to participate as desired in the Chicano/Latino Studies program.

6. Raise additional scholarship funds sufficient to provide full scholarships for 100 undergraduate Latina/o students and 25 graduate Latina/o students; include scholarships for which undocumented students are eligible.

7. Work with local professional networks in the Latina/o community to establish internships and mentorships for PSU’s Latina/o students.

8. Create a Latina/o Alumni Association as an interest group within the wider PSU Alumni Association; connect PSU’s Latina/o alumni to each other and to the institution through a listserv and hosted events.

9. Offer graduate school application workshops that offer basic guidance in preparing strong applications and address issues regarding the culture of graduate school programs, with which first-generation Latina/o students may not be familiar.

10.Form a permanent group to sustain the efforts of the Task Force and perform annual assessments of the institution’s progress towards implementing the recommendations in this report.

As identified by discussions from throughout the year and corroborated by the Recommendations Prioritization Survey taken by the Advisory Board and Task Force members, the recommendations were prioritized based on three criteria; PSU primary responsibility, impact the most Latina and Latinos students, the best use of resources. At the final Task Force meeting, members carried out the difficult task of selecting, from among all these critical recommendations, the tasks that should be undertaken first. In order of priority, the four tasks identified were:

1. Increase funding for scholarships for Latina/o students
2. Increase Latino faculty and staff
3. Create and fund a cultural center for Latina/o students (La casa Latina)
4. Recruit Latina/o students through both the high school and community college pathways


Chair of the Task Force

Carlos J. Crespo, Professor of Community Health Director, School of Community Health Portland State University

Members of the Task Force

Morgan Anderson, Higher Education & Government Affairs Manager, Intel Oregon

Letisia Ayala, Student Representative and Member, MEChA, Portland State University

Jackie Balzer, Vice Provost for Student Affairs, Portland State University

David Coronado, Director, Oregon MESA Program, Portland State University

Roberto M. De Anda, Director & Associate Professor, Chicano/Latino Studies, Portland State University

Julie Esparza-Brown, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education, Portland State University

Frank Garcia, Diversity Administrator, Oregon State Bar

Eleanor Gil-Kashiwabara, Research Assistant Professor, Regional Research Institute, Portland State University

Marisol Jimenez, Coordinator, English Language Learner & Migrant Education Programs Northwest Regional Educational Service District

Samantha López, Graduate Research Assistant, Office of Diversity and Equity, Portland State University

José A. Padín, Associate Professor of Sociology & Director, SMILE/SONRISA Program, Portland State University

Perla Pinedo, Coordinator of Latino Student Services Diversity & Multicultural Student Services, Portland State University

Staff to the Task Force

Martha Balshem, Professor of Sociology, Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Portland State University

Jamie Jones, Graduate Assistant, School of Community Health, Portland State University

April Turner, Management Assistant to the Vice Provost Division of Student Affairs, Portland State University

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