UIC earns ‘Seal of Excelencia’ for commitment to Latino students’ success
The University of Illinois Chicago has earned Excelencia in Education’s “Seal of Excelencia,” a national certification that recognizes colleges and universities for their “unwavering commitment to intentionally serve Latino students, while serving all.”
UIC is one of five higher education institutions selected for the distinction, which was announced today during a press conference in Washington, D.C.
UIC and the 2020 cohort, which join a group of nine previously “seal” certified institutions in the nation, earned certification by demonstrating specific inclusive strategies, implementing programs with evidence of effectiveness, and registering results that showed they are intentionally serving Latino students amongst all of their students.
“We are proud to be recognized for our efforts to serve Latinx students and to be considered a leader in supporting them with the necessary opportunities for personal and academic growth. We owe this recognition to the UIC faculty and staff who have worked to make the university a friendly and successful place for Latinx students,” said UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis. “UIC is a reflection of Chicago and the community we serve. The diversity of our campus is more than an attribute; it is a critical component of our mission as the city’s largest and only public research university.”
Key examples of the programs and practices that helped lead UIC to its status as a “Seal of Excelencia” certified institution include:
- The Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services, or LARES, program, which assists in the recruitment of Latino students and provides academic support to increase their retention and graduation rates. Since being established 45 years ago, the program has grown from approximately 100 students to its present enrollment of more than 3,300. The LARES program was recognized as a Baccalaureate Level Example of Excelencia in 2014.
- The Latin@s Gaining Access to Networks for Advancement in Science, or L@s GANAS, program, funded by a 5-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, aims to increase enrollment and improve academic outcomes for Latinx and low-income students in STEM fields. The program features opportunities for undergraduate research with faculty; holistic academic support and coaching; support networks of faculty and peers; collaborative learning opportunities; and financial support.
- UIC commissions transition coaches, who address academic and non-academic needs to help incoming first-year students succeed in college and graduate in a timely manner. The coaches work with community partners and in several Chicago area high schools, offering support geared toward the post-secondary planning process. The support process begins in the student’s senior year of high school, leading to intensive services during the summer prior to matriculation.
- Established in 1976, the Rafael Cintrón Ortiz Latino Cultural Center at UIC engages campus and local communities to deepen understanding of the diverse cultural heritages and identities within the Latino community, the issues affecting their lives, and the creative solutions they are using to improve community life. Recently, the center has received several grants to support its work on climate inequalities, social identity and social justice through the lens of experiential education.
- To support students’ transition to college—academically, socially, and emotionally—and help them succeed at UIC, the university developed a collection of tuition-free programs such as Summer College. These include academic workshops and readiness and success programs offered in three-week and six-week sessions during the summer before students’ first fall semester.
- Established within the College of Medicine in 1991, the Hispanic Center of Excellence, or HCOE, aims to improve the medical care of Latinx communities while also increasing the representation and strengthening the pipeline of Latinx applicants pursuing health careers. The center is recognized for its enrichment of the education of Latinx students through innovative programs that include support for: parents of Latinx students interested in medicine (Academia de Padres Leadership Institute), high school students (the Medicina Academy Apprentice Program), college students (Medicina Scholars, the Summer Research Program, and the Latino Health Science Enrichment Program), and for medical students (Medicina Fellows, the Summer Research Program, and the Medical Spanish Program).
- The Urban Health Program, or UHP, was founded at UIC in 1978 and coordinates efforts to attract and support students from traditionally underserved populations – including Latinx students – into degree programs across UIC’s seven health sciences colleges (Applied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and Social Work).
“Accelerating Latino student success requires institutions to go beyond enrollment and show intentionality and impact in serving students,” said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO of Excelencia in Education. “These certified institutions set the pace for much needed institutional transformation and are confronting structural barriers and inequities of longstanding.”
From student learning and retention to graduation and career aspirations, student success is a primary focus at UIC, says Nikos Varelas, UIC vice provost for undergraduate affairs and academic programs.
“It is a collaborative effort, guided by data, involving all colleges, offices, programs, faculty, staff, and students. Our programs provide multi-dimensional support to students, which has resulted in an all-time high graduation rate for Latinx and all students at UIC,” Varelas said. “This recognition by a national organization of experts on Latinx student success highlights the alignment of our mission with practice.”
Latino students make up approximately one-third of the total undergraduate population at UIC, which is a Hispanic-Serving Institution, or HSI, as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
UIC is also a national leader in doctoral and professional education for Latinx students. Its College of Medicine has consistently the largest number of graduating Latinx physicians in the continental U.S. over the last 30 years.
Furthermore, UIC announced last month that it’s leading a new national consortium of all 16 Research 1 HSI institutions in the country to increase the number of Latinx doctoral graduates in the social sciences and the humanities and create pathways for them to the professorate. The consortium will also support Latin American and Latino studies programs.
The seal is the latest honor UIC has recently collected for its commitment to diversity and inclusion efforts. Last month, UIC received its fifth Higher Education Excellence in Diversity, or HEED, Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. UIC’s L@s GANAS program was recently named a recipient of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s 2020 Inspiring programs in STEM award.