Educators and Hispanic community leaders from across Kansas have formed the Latino Vision Council to help recruit and retain more Hispanic students at the University of Kansas. The group held its first meeting earlier this summer.
According to KU officials, this initiative aims to educate KU administrators on the many challenges faced by Hispanic youth and their families as they contemplate KU and higher education.
“As the Latino population in Kansas continues to grow, our state and our university must find ways to encourage talented Latino and Hispanic Kansans to pursue higher education,” says Dr. Richard Lariviere, KU provost and executive chancellor.
Since 2001, census data show that Hispanics are the largest minority group both at the university and statewide. Over the past 10 years, the number of Hispanics enrolled at KU has grown significantly. Last fall, KU enrolled approximately 743 Hispanic students, almost doubling the 438 students the university enrolled in 1997.
“Under Provost Richard Lariviere’s leadership, the Latino council has been a project in the works for some time,” says Dr. Danny Anderson, vice provost of academic affairs. “To serve this growing sector of our state we needed to really think broadly about reaching students and getting them to consider KU as an option. We looked at Texas as a model to determine what we should be doing.”
KU has started to provide recruitment materials in Spanish, is seeking to employ more Spanish-speaking employees in the admissions department and is setting up a Spanish-language hotline for families and students.
The Latino council will provide another point of entry to KU for Hispanic students and families, adding to existing groups such as the social network Hispanic American Leadership Organization, H.A.L.O.
“Because KU is a flagship school, people have seen it as unattainable, especially in the Latino community,” says Elías García, a Latino Vision Council member. “KU has to get connected with the community. KU has to let down its guard.” García is also the state director for the League of United Latin American Citizens.
To impact the lives of Hispanic students the university must embrace the old saying, “Mi casa es su casa,” says García.
“When it comes to the Hispanic community, individuals are totally aware of that saying. It is an invitation to come over to my house,” says García. “The problem is they never let us in the door. The vision council’s intent is to go from that invitation to actually walking in the door,” he adds.
The nearly two dozen council members include public school officials, state officials and leaders of community, religious, media and social service organizations. Four KU students will also serve on the council.
“The vision council is comprised of actual leaders within both the community and the [university] system. It is very rare when that happens. Not only do they have the [clout] in this case, they have the actual leaders. These people are well known, well respected and connected to the community,” García says.
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