Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

HACU and UT-San Antonio Host Top Scholars in Latino Research

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

HACU and UT-San Antonio Host Top Scholars in Latino Research

Article excerpt

More than 50 top scholars gathered in San Antonio. Texas, for three days in early June for an unprecedented meeting of minds. Scholars focused on furthering the success of Latinos in higher éducation came from distinct parts of the country to develop a Latino/a-driven agenda for national research, policy and practice.

Unique to the meeting, called the National Latino/a Education Research, Policy and Practice Initiative, was the diversity of those represented - a group of inlergenerational administrators, faculty, doctoral students and practitioners making up the education pipeline.

"Many people hadn't been in a meeting like this. ... solely to have an intentional, collaborative and intergenerational meeting of minds.

Most of these folks go to conferences and attend each other's meetings, but to come together for one big work session was unique," said Emily Calderón Galdeano, conference organizer and director of research and information at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (IIACU) .

"It was inspiring, and it was great to learn from each other and how all of our work informs other people's work. We didn't care if we were working all the time. We collectively stralegized as a group, and the space was there for conversations we had never seen in other places."

Nationally renowned scholars gathered on June 9, the first day of the conference, to an opening talk by Dr. Antonio Llores, HACU president, and Dr. Ricardo Romo, president of the University of Texas (LIT)-San Antonio. They represented the two organizations hosting the meeting, which was supported by the Lumina Foundation. Both welcomed all to the event and emphasized the incredible brainpower that existed in die room.

Beyond basic introductions, the following two days were comprised of work groups discussing major areas of concerns. Conference organizers provided an overview of past research activity and identified critical gaps in Latino education research, policy and practice.

"We had a large group meeting, and the scholars dien created subtopics and broke off into small groups. They looked at research, policy and practice arenas and came back into a large group and shared what they had learned in smaller groups," explained Calderón Galdeano. "We started at 8 a.m. and were done at 5:30 p.m., and during lunch, dinner and after dinner we had many more discussions. People were excited to be in these groups. Many hadn't been in meetings like this before."

Key topic areas addressed included undocumented students, community colleges and Latino student success, Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Latino/a leadership, college access and completion, Latino learning style and pedagogy, STEM, and financing higher education. In addition, some goals of the San Antonio meeting included stimulating discussion of current and past research regarding Latina/o higher education; collaborating and developing workgroups; identifying and connecting with funders; fostering relationships among scholars; and using these relationships to drive innovation in the access and success of Latinos in higher education.

Until now, many scholars have focused on the deficits of Latinos - low high school and college graduation rates and low retention rates - but these meetings provided a chance to look more closely al Hie Ime picture oí Lalinos iii higher education. In investigating the arena of community colleges and Latino student success, attendees re-examined the belief that community colleges are a deficit and compared the transfer rates on papers to the real transfer rates for Latinos. The small groups also discussed the information-seeking process for first-genera lion students and what was needed to help students apply to and transfer from community colleges.

Groups that focused on IISTs shared knowledge on the unique identities of these 311 entities that serve 54 percent of all Latino students. "What does it mean to be an HSl'? …

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