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New horizons for campus diversity

Cheyanne Burens

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Chico State will be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in September in light of the record-breaking increase of Hispanic and Latino enrollment at 42.1 percent. Photo credit: Jenelle Kapellas


This September, many may be celebrating Hispanic Heritage month in light of the 2015 fall enrollment, making Chico State history once again by reaching an all-time high for Hispanic and Latino/a enrollees at 42.1 percent.

DREAM students are a contributing factor, doubling each year since 2012, according to Paul Zingg, who announced the accomplishment at the Fall 2015 President’s Convocation.

He added that the percentage of Hispanic and Latino/a students at Chico State has risen from 11.7 to 42.1 percent within the last 12 years.

News of the drastic increase reflects the anticipated overall demographic shift in California, in which the Hispanic and Latino population exceeded the white population, according to Zingg.

Aside from being a result of the apparent demographic change over the last decade, the university’s increase in Hispanic and Latino students is also a successful outcome of Paul Zingg’s early commitment to diversity and, specifically, his aim to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

Hispanic-Serving Institutions are a federal designation from the Department of Education that addresses the statewide and national rising Hispanic and Latino demographic. Most universities in the CSU system are Hispanic-Serving Institutions, so earning this status has been a top priority of Zingg’s, he said.

Vince Ornelas, director of the social work department and member of the University Diversity Council, said the HSI title is an asset of public education’s retaliation against poverty.

Given that the majority of students are Californian residents, the Hispanic-Serving Institution title is beneficial in bringing more educated persons into the statewide workforce, he said.

“Generally, when we see more people have more education, they tend to do better,” Ornelas said. “When people come from specific communities and people complete their education, they tend to return to those communities to provide service.”

The University Diversity Council will be submitting a proposal to officially earn the title at the end of December, Ornelas said.


Jennifer Rubio, Wildcat ambassador for admissions, talks about influencing factors of the raise in Hispanic students on campus on Saturday, Sept. 5. Photo credit: Jenelle Kapellas


Jennifer Rubio, senior speech therapy major, has been a helping hand in the university’s systematic drive to become more diverse and inclusive as a Wildcat ambassador for admissions.

She travels with other representatives to local high schools and uses her bilingual advantage to recruit students of a diverse background. According to Rubio, the demographic they reach out to consists mostly of Equal Opportunity Program beneficiaries and first-generation students.

“They are starting to become more aware that college is something that they need to obtain,” Rubio said.


Hannah Burdette, Spanish Teacher for Chico State, talks about influences of the raise in Hispanic students on campus. Photo credit: Jenelle Kapellas


Hannah Burdette, a new faculty member who previously taught at Lycoming College in Williamsport, PA, hasn’t seen the Equal Opportunity Program anywhere else and believes it would be beneficial at Lycoming.

“It seems like a really beneficial program for first-generation college students or students coming from backgrounds where they don’t necessarily have the same kind of preparation as others,” she said. “It does a lot in terms of socialization and providing different kinds of support.”

Visibility of the Hispanic student takeover surpasses statistics and can be noticed throughout all aspects of campus life.

“Just walking through school you see that there’s a more diverse population from, say, four years ago,” Rubio said.

Stephen Lewis, history professor and department chair, has also noticed a transition among the population in one of his international language classes from when he arrived to campus in 1998.

“Maybe 25 to 30 percent of my students were Latino or spoke Spanish at home, and now in that same class, I’m at about 60 to 65 percent,” he said.

Burdette has also heard about how diversity at Chico State has improved over the years.

“I have heard that Chico State used to be more middle-class, white students from the Bay Area and that over recent years, that demographic has changed a lot,” Burdette said.

The Office of Diversity, along with other campus efforts, will hold a conversation on Hispanic-Serving Institutions and other topics of diversity throughout the month of September in celebration of Hispanic Heritage month.

As President Zingg proclaimed in his convocation, “The future is now and we are embracing it.”

Cheyanne Burens can be reached at [email protected] or @cheybrizzle on Twitter.

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