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K-State Today

March 21, 2012

Working together: New partnership recognizes university's efforts to empower Hispanic students

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Kansas State University's efforts to empower students and help them with their college experience are getting a boost through a new partnership with the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, or USHLI.

"The partnership is important because it will allow Hispanic students the opportunity to affirm their cultural identity, develop leadership skills and expand their awareness of the importance of a postsecondary education," said Mirta Chavez, multicultural programs and services director in the university's office of diversity. "It also gives Kansas State University national recognition for its commitment to Hispanic students."

The partnership was announced in February at the Hispanic institute's annual conference in Chicago, and is a result of a visit by its president, Juan Andrade, to the university in October 2011. Andrade was the guest speaker at the university's 2011 Midwest HALO Encuentro, an annual leadership conference sponsored by the university's Hispanic American Leadership Organization and office of diversity. During the visit, Andrade discovered what the university was doing to enhance the college experience for Hispanic students.

"USHLI has worked with local groups, student organizations and universities in Kansas during the last 30 years, and we have found Kansas State University to be the most effective in bringing Latino students and educators together from throughout the state to focus on pursuing postsecondary education or training," Andrade said. "We look forward with great anticipation to the partnership with K-State in helping Latino students transition from middle school into high school, from high school into college, and from college to career."

The Encuentro conference offers workshops on resume writing, career building and financial aid information, coupled with traditional Hispanic entertainment and an influential Hispanic keynote speaker. The conference has become very popular, with more than 400 students registering each year, Chavez said. The partnership with the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute will assist with increasing participant numbers and connections to continue the conference.

"We have more than 1,000 Hispanic students on campus, which accounts for only 5 percent of the student population," Chavez said. "It is almost like moving to a different country when you consider that the majority of them come from areas where 60 percent of the population are Latino and have similar cultural upbringings and values. Cultural student organizations play a vital role in the student development process and were established at the university to provide these students with the necessary support for growth during their college years."

Some of the Hispanic or Latino student organizations on campus include the Hispanic American Leadership Organization, League of United Latin American Citizens, Bilingual Education Student Organization, Sigma Lambda Gamma national sorority, Sigma Lambda Beta international fraternity and many more.

Kansas State University organizes additional activities to encourage leadership among Hispanic students, including an annual welcome back barbecue as well as College for a Day Institutes -- an opportunity for high school students to be exposed to careers in business, agriculture and engineering. The partnership will also aid those activities.

"One of the challenges many Hispanic students face when they go off to college is cultural shock, especially at an institution where only a small percentage of the population is like you," Chavez said. "Here at K-State, we work to help them adjust by providing a home-away-from-home experience. The partnership with USHLI will be one more resource to provide Latino students with opportunities to successfully navigate through the university system."