This year, Sonoma State became the 21st CSU campus to be recognized by the Department of Education as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI)—a college or university with a Latino student enrollment of at least 25 percent. The HSI designation makes campuses eligible for federal grants and other programs aimed at strengthening Latino student success. It also makes Sonoma State an HSI member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU), which represents more than 400 colleges and universities committed to Latino higher education success and is a vital platform for advocacy and collaboration.

As the CSU celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, Sonoma State President Judy Sakaki highlights how the HSI designation is already opening doors for student success and giving the campus a stronger voice regarding issues of importance to Latinos in higher education:

When I became president of Sonoma State in July 2016, one of my early goals was to have the campus officially designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution. I am happy to say we received that designation last February, which was earlier than some people expected.

Now I am even more delighted to say that the move is already paying big dividends for our students. We were recently notified – thanks to a grant application put together by our School of Education – that Sonoma State will receive $2.75 million dollars over five years to launch PUERTA, which stands for Preparing Underrepresented Educators to Realize Their Teaching Ambitions. PUERTA also means ‘door’ in Spanish, which is an apt name for a new program that will open doors for our local Latino community in ways that we expect to have a significant positive impact.

Because of our HSI designation and this grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Sonoma State will be able to increase the pipeline of Latino students who are prepared to attend SSU. We will also be able to support them more fully once they are enrolled.  We will be increasing the number of students who become early childhood educators, special educators or teachers in public elementary and secondary schools.  With Latino students making up about a third of our student body, the HSI designation and the grant are a crucial step in being able to help our students succeed academically and graduate on time.

We’re also able to better serve our students and community because we are a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). That gives us a seat at the table and a stronger voice on Capitol Hill regarding issues of importance to Latinos in higher education.  In addition to effective advocacy, HACU also enriches our professional development network so we can train the next generation of talented Latino education leaders on our campus and throughout the CSU.