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GVSU earns national recognition for helping Latino students achieve goals

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Posted on May 29, 2019

Grand Valley was recognized nationally for demonstrating its commitment to serving Latino/Hispanic students and providing tools to help them earn degrees.

Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve education outcomes for Latino/a college students, awarded Grand Valley and 19 other higher education institutions the Seal of Excelencia. The finalists will be formally recognized June 20 at an event in Washington, D.C.

In 2016, President Thomas J. Haas was the first university president in Michigan to join Excelencia's Presidents for Latino Student Success. He said joining Excelencia fit within the university's strategic plan to provide students with the tools they need to succeed.

"We recognize the changing demographics of the nation, particularly the growing Latino population and what an important role they will play in the future of our region and state," Haas said. "We will continue our forward momentum to capture the talents of students of color and engage them while they are part of our campus community."

The number of Latino/Hispanic students at Grand Valley has increased by 14 percent since 2015-2016, from 1,079 students in 2015 to 1,237 in 2018.

Jesse Bernal, vice president for Inclusion and Equity, said a number of initiatives and programs have contributed to recruiting and retaining Latino/Hispanic students. These initiatives and programs include Laker Familia, a cohort-based mentorship program; partnership with Hispanic Center of West Michigan to host a summer internship program; and endowed private scholarships awarded to students, with emphasis given to undocumented students.

"Grand Valley is the only university in Michigan and only one of two in the Midwest to earn this recognition," Bernal said. "We set up integrated elements throughout the institution that set a strong national model for what institutions can do to intentionally serve Latino students while serving all students."