Friday, August 31, 2012

* Latino/a Higher Education Enrollment Milestones *

     As we all embark upon a fresh academic year, I would like to draw your attention to this blurb that caught my eye in a recent email from Inside Higher Ed
     Latino enrollments in higher education passed several milestones in 2011, according to a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center:
  • Latino students are now the largest minority group among four-year college and university students.
  • Latino students now make up one quarter of community college enrollments.
  • Total Latino enrollment has passed 2 million students, or 16.5 percent of all college enrollments.
     Having made the transition within little over a year from grad student to new Ph.D. to full time lecturer to tenure-track faculty member, the preceding news comes as an encouraging testament to the value of higher education and the importance of accessibility and opportunity. 

     I have thought a lot about types of institutions lately, especially while getting to know all my new faculty peers at various formal and informal orientation events as we all anticipate our new positions and the campus culture here. While I have experience teaching at big state schools, a community college, an open enrollment "commuter" university, and now a highly selective liberal arts college, I know that undoubtedly the student demographics influence the examples I choose to make the course content relevant and applicable to my students' lives. 

     In a recent faculty development workshop I attended, we discussed the role nonverbal communication plays in our perceived credibility, likeability, and authoritative command in the classroom. There was brief mention of how race, ethnicity, gender, and other nonverbal identities we wear on our external shells factor into how we are seen by our students. I made the point in the workshop that it is often the case that when minorities are in positions of power, they are more noticeable because they are not as common. This can be negative because we may experience more challenges to our authority from students. This can also, however, be a positive because we can provide mentorship to our students and embodied diversity. 

     Increasing numbers of Latino/as enrolling in universities and colleges is a sign of progress. There are more initiatives these days towards also increasing faculty diversity to reflect the diversity of students in higher education. While there are many kinks to work out in this process of inclusiveness and truly embracing difference, I am happy to at least see that the trend is growing progressively. As a young Latina professor, I am eager to see what the future holds as a result of the diversification of higher education. I want to start this year on a note of optimism. Cheers to you all for a productive, positive, and peaceful semester!  


  1. Yesterday was the first day of my graduate seminar and it felt like a milestone as I have three Chicano Communication Studies doctoral students in the course. I hope I will continue to see even more Chicana/o and Latina/o doctoral students in Communication Studies. We need them!

  2. That is wonderful! We just finished the 3rd week of our semester and I'm happy that there is a Latino/a American/Latin American student association whose listserv I've been added to (not to mention the fact that there is a Hispanic Studies dept. here), a Faculty of Color group that holds monthly lunch meetings, and an organization for junior faculty members that meets 1-2 times per month as well! The resources simply being available is comforting and reassuring.