The University of Redlands received its first Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions Grant this spring and will use the funding to strengthen successful programs like First-Year Journeys and Summer Bridge while also developing new initiatives.
The $2.9 million Title V federal grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education and will be distributed over the next five years. Redlands achieved Hispanic-Serving Institution status in 2021, and the HSI Working Group—comprised of faculty members, students, and staff—spent more than a year discussing priorities and best practices and gathering input from the campus community before submitting their grant proposal, "Proyecto Dirección: Building Belonging and Latinx Success at the University of Redlands."
"As an alumnae, administrator, and current doctoral student, I'm truly excited to see how this grant will help us partner with Latinx students to make their Redlands experience the best it can be," said Anuradha Diekmann '19, director of corporate and foundation relations and an HSI Working Group member.
Over the past decade, the composition of the University's student population "has changed dramatically," said Dr. Steven Moore, director of the Sponsored Programs Office, Center for Spatial Studies, and a member of the HSI Working Group. Latinx students now make up more than 40 percent of the student body and becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution "recognizes that the University increasingly enrolls Latinx students and will help the institution realign itself to better serve the students and the Inland Empire."
The grant will boost the Summer Bridge, First-Year Journeys, Students Together Empowering Peers (STEP), First-Year Seminar, Transfer Student Success, and Race in Education Analytics Learning (REAL) Lab programs in individual ways. STEP, which offers mentoring, resources, and support for all first-generation students during their first semester, will be able to expand its services to transfer and graduate students, while Summer Bridge, a program that helps students make the transition into college, will reduce its threshold for eligibility and increase the number of mentors and sessions.
Students have shared that these programs "help them to transition to the college environment, meet people, and make new friends," said Belinda Sandoval Zazueta, associate vice president of admissions at the College of Arts and Sciences. "It impacts their sense of belonging, which leads to their satisfaction as students and then ultimately to their success." Her HSI Working Group colleague Martín Hoecker-Martínez, associate professor of physics, agreed. "Each of these programs help to form interconnections between students and expand the size of students' safety net," he said.
Additionally, the grant will be used to create the Dirección Leadership Program, a two-day leadership retreat for Latinx students, and fund faculty training and several new staff positions, including Title V Project Director. The HSI Working Group will transition into an advisory board for the grant project "and an entity that will continue seeking opportunities for further developing the institution's serving identity and promoting the important work already taking place," said Dr. Adriana Alvarado, co-director of the REAL Lab and HSI Working Group member.
All U of R students will benefit from the grant money, as being a Hispanic-Serving Institution does not mean it will "exclusively focus on serving Latinx students to the detriment of other groups," Alvarado said. "For one, the Latinx community is heterogeneous, and we need to have an intersectional consciousness when we approach our work. Moreover, efforts to develop the institution's serving identity will likely align with other anti-racism efforts on campus aimed at promoting a more positive campus climate and better academic and liberatory outcomes for everyone."