Marquette University

Hispanic Community October 2021 PREMIUM
Strives For Hispanic “Servingness”

Written by Jacki Black,  Director for Hispanic Initiatives at Marquette University

According to estimates by the U.S. Census, Latinx communities have accounted for just over half of the country’s population growth over the last decade and are the second largest racial or ethnic group. Projections have the population continuing to grow, reaching just under 100 million in the next 30 years. Data from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education also show that one in four public high school graduates in spring 2019 was Latinx.

Marquette University is a Catholic, Jesuit university located in the heart of Milwaukee and data shows that the Midwest, and Milwaukee in particular, are areas that have seen some of the fastest growth in Latinx communities in the nation.

In 2016, Marquette announced that it would begin actively striving to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), putting into action an ambitious commitment to serving one of the fastest-growing segments of the population, while also supporting its Catholic, Jesuit mission to make education accessible. This federal designation requires an undergraduate population that is at least 25% Hispanic, with at least half of those students qualifying as low-income.

This past February Marquette Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Kimo Ah Yun, publicly reaffirmed Marquette’s commitment to this effort. As he noted in a letter to the campus community, “This endeavor is about making Marquette a more welcoming and inclusive space for all our diverse stakeholders. HSI speaks to the very heart of our values as a Catholic, Jesuit institution: to serve the traditionally underserved, to provide care for each of our students and to strive for inclusive excellence.”

Students from all diverse backgrounds contribute to a thriving campus community in incalculable ways, and investment in the HSI initiative and in underrepresented students not only creates a more inclusive campus environment, but also positions Marquette as a stronger institution.

When Marquette launched the HSI initiative, its undergraduate student enrollment was 9.7% Latinx. In fall 2021, Marquette welcomed a historic first-year class that is 18% Latinx, allowing the university to join the ranks of the hundreds of “emerging” HSIs, or colleges and universities that have 15% to 24% Hispanic undergraduate enrollment.

In addition to the growth in Latinx student enrollment at the undergraduate level, Marquette’s graduate and professional schools have seen dramatic shifts, with the number of Latinx students doubling over the past five years.

Working to recruit, retain, and graduate these and other historically marginalized students is a key part of Marquette’s adaptive strategy in these changing headwinds of higher education. The university has launched many efforts to engage diverse stakeholders, including the Office of Undergraduate Admissions’ Community Ambassadors program for near-peer outreach to local high schools, on-site admissions for local schools, transfer articulation agreements with two-year institutions and added transitional support.

The Encuentros Mentor Program and other partnerships with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, a Milwaukee affiliate of the Catholic, Jesuit college preparatory school network, have also supported a pipeline for many first-generation students.

Currently, 1 in 5 Marquette undergraduate students are first-generation college students. The university is continually innovating the ways its community can break down barriers for students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to get a Marquette education. It is a part of the institution’s Catholic, Jesuit mission to find avenues to make accessible the transformational educational experience that the university has offered for 140 years.

To these ends, the university has invested significant resources into financial aid and scholarships, providing Latinx students with $33 million in financial aid in the 2020-21 academic year. Other efforts to support students financially have included more than $250,000 raised for the Ellacuría Scholarship for undocumented students through 2021, and up to $30,000 in matching funds for Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee scholarships offered to Marquette students.

But, while one focus has been on recruitment efforts, Marquette’s HSI initiative goes well beyond the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, touching every facet of campus life. Drawing from HSI scholar Gina García’s framework of “servingness” — a multidimensional and conceptual way to understand what it means to move from simply enrolling Latinx students to actually serving them — Marquette is striving to build the capacity to serve underrepresented students well, not only in terms of producing positive outcomes, such as graduation rates, but also ensuring that students have culturally affirming experiences during their time on campus.

The vision of Marquette as a Hispanic-Serving Institution is one that includes strong ties to our local community, compositional diversity at all levels of the institution, a rich and rigorous educational experience that is accessible to students from all income levels and backgrounds, a commitment to the production of knowledge that advances social equity, a culturally affirming campus climate where underrepresented students and employees feel a sense of connection and belonging, and the infrastructure necessary to support all our stakeholders and help them thrive.

Recent developments that foster a culturally responsive campus environment include:

Race, Ethnic and Indigenous Studies program, which promotes critical academic scholarship on the workings of racial/ethnic identity, the persistence of racism and other forms of social oppression.

Ready to Inspire Success and Excellence (RISE), a pre-orientation program for students of color.

Employee resource groups to promote a sense of community, build personal and professional networks, enhance employee support and retention, and assist in attracting new employees to foster a diverse and inclusive community.

Hispanic Alumni Association, a meaningful network for Hispanic alumni to connect with each other and the university.

Opportunities for employees to engage in critical learnings around issues of race and bias.

Investment in the beautification and diversification of campus spaces, including a campus mural project which showcases the diversity, richness and complexity of the campus and makes visible the interconnected nature of the experiences and struggles of many women of color.

Spanish language pages on, social media accounts — @SomosMarquette on Twitter and Instagram, and bilingual staff members in the areas of admissions, financial aid, and New Student and Family Programs provide programming to help students and families navigate complicated processes and transition successfully to college full stop.

“We’ve made tremendous progress since the start of our HSI journey, but the work is nowhere near done,” Ah Yun said. “Rest assured, the important work of attracting and supporting underrepresented students will continue.” 

Author bio: Jacki Black  is the Associate Director for Hispanic Initiatives at Marquette University. She leads the university’s Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) initiative and contributes to the execution of other campus-level diversity and inclusion efforts. Prior to Marquette, she devoted 15 years to teaching, mentoring, coaching, and advising in Chicago and Milwaukee schools.

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