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UMD Assesses Campus Climate Among Hispanic Students

At the University of Maryland, College Park, Hispanic students want more faculty and administrative support, additional mentorship opportunities and a cultural center to address their needs and concerns, according to a recent survey conducted by the institution’s Adele H. Stamp Student Union for Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy.

Hispanics compose more than 20 percent of the population in counties surrounding UMD, yet the school only enrolls 5.5 percent of Hispanic students. Moreover, Hispanic faculty compose only 2 percent of the overall faculty at UMD.

To ensure that Hispanic students are thriving, the institution’s multicultural center conducted a survey to assess the needs of this demographic of students.

The survey found that more than 40 percent of Hispanics feel comfortable

at the university. The Latino Student Union and Lambda Theta Alpha Sorority Incorporated, the first Latina sorority in the nation, were among the top-ranking campus activities among Hispanic students.

Nearly 50 percent are satisfied with their academic experience, and the majority of the 86 students surveyed said the university did a good job in promoting diversity.

Some students expressed concerns about isolation, a lack of role models in the faculty and the need for more academic support.

Commuter and transfer students, particularly, felt a strong disconnect from the university, said Pamela Hernandez, Coordinator for Latino Student Involvement and Advocacy Coordinator for Latino Student Involvement and Advocacy.

“I came here as a transfer student,” said Manuel Ruiz, president of the Latino Student Union. “In the beginning, I felt isolated. I felt alone. The university did not do much for transfer students to get them acclimated to university life. They gave you a one-day orientation and said, ‘go find your way.’”

Last year, following protests from students and professors, UMD approved a Latino Studies minor. According to Ruiz, the approval was a 10-year movement. The minor in U.S. Latino studies is the first at a major university in the greater Washington, D.C., area.

“I feel that the university talks about diversity. It talks about being an inclusive community, but behind the scenes they don’t prioritize [the Hispanic] community. Yes, we have the Latino studies minor, but it took 10 years for the university to approve it,” Ruiz said.

During a presentation of the survey’s findings, both Hernandez and Brandon Dula, assistant director of the Adele H. Stamp Student Union for Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy, agreed that more needed to be done on the part of the university to inform to students about existing programs and resources.

The survey also revealed that the conversation of diversity at UMD failed to address specific Hispanic concerns.

“When we’re talking about diversity, it’s a thin line that we tread because everyone becomes homogenous. You don’t really know who you are talking or talking about,” said Hernandez. “We do not have to reinvent the wheel, but we must do a better job of bringing all the stakeholders together: students, faculty and staff.”

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