The Texas A&M Hispanic Network (TAMHN) was formally chartered by The Association of Former Students in November of 2006 to address ways Texas A&M University and its Hispanic alumni could assist the University in increasing diversity within the student body, faculty, and staff. The mission of TAMHN is to serve as an advocate and support group on Hispanic concerns and issues at the University and local communities, with chapters state-wide.
Of Hispanic descent myself, I had already left Texas A&M University prior to the formation of TAMHN. My experience at Texas A&M was different than that of current students. My mom is from Bolivia. When I went to A&M, there were only a handful of Hispanic organizations, and being in Texas, they were almost certain to be Mexican-American. As such, as an Engineering student (initially), I joined the organizations where I felt most comfortable, like MAES (Mexican-American Engineering Students).
As a former student, I receive emails from The Association of Former Students. In one such email, in 2021, there was a note about the upcoming TAMHN virtual summit. I took note of the date and joined the event online. The topics and discussions were impressive. At the end of the summit, the President of TAMHN asked if anyone was interested in joining the Board as the Communications Chair. Pushing beyond my comfort zone, I reached out to see how I could help. I have since grown my role to also include development.
Life on campus is quite different now than 20 years ago when I graduated. There are now around 40 different Hispanic student-run organizations, all under the Hispanic Presidents’ Council (HPC), covering many areas – from networking to salsa dancing to mariachis to sororities. Though The Texas A&M Hispanic Network is an alumni group, it works closely with HPC.
As an organization, we realize that education – especially for our growing Latino population – needs to include more than the formal learning at a college or university. We also are keenly aware that the majority of our Hispanic students are considered “first generation” scholars. This means that these learners cannot rely on their parents or immediate family for advice on college or professional experience. This is where the Texas A&M Hispanic Network steps in to support students and alumni, letting them know they are not alone and that their extended “Familia” is here to help through sharing similar experiences, advice on how to overcome challenges and creating success, all while giving back.
TAMHN’s main showcase event is the Annual Summit. A theme is chosen by the Board, with relevant topics that vary by year, and this also serves as the largest fundraiser for the year. The contributions from the event go directly to provide scholarships for Hispanic students. Almost $50,000 was raised in 2023.
The Summit brings together many generations of Latinos – from the organization’s founding fathers to young, new Texas A&M students - all from different backgrounds, career paths, and economic levels. This past year’s Summit was a great success, highlighting our tagline and theme, “Lift as We Climb.” Hispanic Aggie Trailblazers were showcased, as was our new Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) status. To serve both students and alumni, we had a breakout session for students that focused on personal branding, while alumni were educated by a fellow Aggie and Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA) member on what it means to be board-ready.
As we are a Hispanic organization, we also enjoy a good time. To add an element of fun and camaraderie, both the State and the regional levels work together to host tailgates at every home game in the fall. This effort was brought back to life in 2022 by the Vice President of the TAMHN, which contributed to the growth of our membership, and expanded our reach through networking.
TAMHN is lucky to have very strong representation at the regional levels. Most chapters meet quarterly, having happy hours to build community, as well as informational events, with local Aggie business owners or professionals sharing their experience on topics ranging from mental health to digital marketing and everything in between. The largest chapters are in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW).
The DFW Chapter recently hosted its first Aggie Excellence Gala, “Noche de Oro,” successfully raising funds for additional scholarships while creating greater awareness of the chapter within the local community. Houston hosts an annual golf event in partnership with the Houston A&M Club and the Houston Reveille Club; they also host a clay shoot. The profits from these events go to support scholarships.
Lastly, the San Antonio chapter hosted their first “Pachanga Fundraiser,” raising $10,000 in additional scholarship money.
Apart from our fundraising efforts, the Texas A&M Hispanic Network collaborates with other aspects of Texas A&M University’s work. Texas A&M received Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) status in March of 2022. TAMHN members were on an HSI committee, serving as the “eyes and ears” of the Hispanic student body and alumni. TAMHN continues to be involved with HSI efforts, emphasizing the fact that the school has a 25% Hispanic population, while the state of Texas has a more than 40% Hispanic population.
Because the TAMHN is so well connected and in tune with potential students, as well as new students, creating relationships with this young group aids in both recruitment and retention efforts for the university. All the members of TAMHN have been in similar situations and can speak from experience regarding how to transition from the comfort of home and a familiar context to what can be an overwhelmingly large campus and then to leaving school and transitioning into their professional lives.
As such, the Texas A&M Hispanic Network actively participates in both on and off campus activities. TAMHN has a booth at “Bienvenidos a Aggieland” at the beginning of every school year to welcome new students and to let graduating students know that we will be with them beyond their lives in College Station. The Network has also offered financial literacy classes to best prepare students who are transitioning to the working world and need to know how to navigate job offers, benefit packages, investments, and the like.
An early career mentorship program will also kick off in 2024 for young Aggie graduates with 6 months to 5 years of professional experience.
The Texas A&M Hispanic Network has been around for over 18 years and will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2025. During these years, much has been accomplished, and the Hispanic population of the school has increased significantly. Thus, it makes sense that 4 of our TAMHN members have received the title of Distinguished Alumni. This is the highest honor bestowed upon a former student of Texas A&M University, highlighting Aggies who have achieved excellence in their chosen professions and made meaningful contributions to Texas A&M University and their local communities. Most recently, this year, Hector Gutierrez, Jr., founding chairman of the Texas A&M Hispanic Network, was awarded such an honor.
Our next Annual Summit will be held in College Station on April 6, 2024, with a nationally recognized keynote speaker, as well as panelists from around the country.
As our organization continues to grow and flourish, we have started to create partnerships and alliances with both individuals and corporations. We are grateful for the opportunity to increase awareness, programming, support, and community with and beyond our Hispanic constituents.
The Texas A&M Hispanic Network is entirely run by volunteers, composed of leaders from different industries, ages and perspectives, all tied together by a passion for “lifting as we climb.”
I have been an active member since 2021, and I have received far more than what I have contributed. It is an honor to serve with all the individuals that make up the Board, and it provides me great satisfaction to help the next generation of Hispanic leaders. •
About the author
Carmen Fraser Youngsteadt serves on the State Board of the Texas A&M Hispanic Network as the Communications and Development Chair. She is a Senior Bilingual Marketing Executive that is passionate about educating the growing Hispanic population of Texas. In her spare time, you can find Carmen carting her three children around Houston.