Portland State commits to improving Latino student success
Author: Kerri Griesbeck
Posted: June 11, 2010

A new initiative at Portland State will commit $250,000 to support Latino students, beginning in fall 2010. Funds will support areas of focus recommended by the Task Force on Latina and Latino Student Success, a committee created last fall by PSU President Wim Wiewel. Wiewel created the Task Force, comprised of community stakeholders and Portland State faculty, staff and students, with the goal of identifying how Portland State can best serve the higher education needs of Oregon's Latino community.

In a forum this week, the Task Force presented a final report to Wiewel that recommended four actions: increase funding for scholarships for Latino students; increase Latino faculty and staff; create and fund a cultural center for Latino students (La Casa Latina); and recruit Latino students through both the high school and community college pathways.

Wiewel immediately endorsed all four recommendations presented and announced the allocating of funds in next year's budget towards these initiatives. He went further and stated that if these efforts were even halfway successful, the money will grow.

"The Task Force has done a great job of looking at best practices elsewhere, and then talking to our community," said Wiewel. "We will be working on implementing as many of the recommendations as quickly as we can."

The four priorities were chosen from a list of ten determined by the Task Force after meeting over the course of nine months. The group organized its thinking around four stages of Latino student success: envisioning college, entering college, staying in college, and succeeding after graduation. It reviewed literature, studied relevant data, learned from the success of comparable institutions, and performed an internal audit of current Portland State activities and successes as a foundation for its work. 

"The formation of this Task Force allowed us to discover existing resources and the willingness of people in the community and at the University to create a successful environment for Latino students," said Carlos Crespo, chair of the Task Force and director and professor for the School of Community Health. "We look forward to seeing continued improvement in achievements of current and new Latino students."

The need for focusing on the Latino population became apparent while Wiewel was doing background research before accepting the presidency at Portland State. "I looked at the demographics of Portland because I knew of its reputation as a fairly homogenous city. I found out, to my surprise, that it was not at all as homogenous as its reputation and that in fact it had a very rapidly growing Latino population," said Wiewel. "Then I looked at Portland State and saw that the percentage of Latino students mirrored Portland's growth, but there seemed little awareness of that fact, and there was a real dearth of programs specifically oriented for Latino students including recruiting, retaining, and graduating."

Full Task Force report here