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Alumni News Archive: Gevirtz + HSI

Gevirtz + UCSB’s HSI Transition

UC Santa Barbara rings in 2015 with a newly designated title as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU). UCSB is the fourth UC campus to earn the title and the first member of the prestigious Association of American Universities to be named an HSI institution.


The bar for HSI status is that Hispanic enrollment is a minimum of 25 % of a school’s total enrollment. With a 27% Latina/Latino undergraduate population, UCSB is now eligible for grants and funding for various initiatives for the entire student body including

  • Faculty development and administrative management
  • Development and improvement of academic programs
  • Endowment funds
  • Laboratory equipment for teaching
  • Renovation of instructional facilities
  • Academic tutoring, counseling programs and student support services.

“This status also means that UCSB is becoming a bit more diverse and accessible,” says fourth year Ph.D. student in the Department of Education Priscilla Pereschica, who is currently conducting her dissertation research on Hispanic Serving Institutions. “I look forward to seeing the continued growth of UCSB’s diversity.”


Faculty and graduate students within the Gevirtz School have long been researching issues related to Latino education to increase school diversity and access to higher education, at both the K-12 level and the university level. Some examples include:

Julie Bianchini, professor in the Department of Education, along with a team of colleagues, leads a project entitled STELLER: STEM Teachers for English Language Learners: Excellence and Retention that prepares new teachers for the challenges of classrooms in which a majority of students are learning English as well as math and science.

A major focus of the work of Laura Romo, professor in the Department of Education and also the Director of the UCSB Chicano Studies Institute, is how to design culturally appropriate family-based training workshops to improve communication between Latina mothers and daughters.

Richard Duran, professor in the Department of Education and one of many faculty members implementing community outreach programs, works with both McKinley and Harding elementary schools, providing counsel to Latino students and advice to their parents. In addition to this work, he and Dr. Betsy Brenner have led a network of after school computer clubs serving primarily early school through high school students in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club.

Members of GGSE also organize, attend, and contribute research to HSI conferences, the most recent one held in Santa Barbara.


“This change will allow us to prepare many more students for graduate school and beyond,” Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti said when UCSB’s HSI status was announced, “so we can develop all that untapped talent, diversify our perspectives, and increase Chicano/Latino impact on the state, the nation, and the world.”

Much of that change can happen inside the Gevirtz School; a focus group of graduate students discussing their desire to facilitate the change said so. “Many of our graduate student participants believed that they could and should have a role in UCSB’s HSI transition process since they interact with undergraduate students in a number of capacities,” Pereschica, who led the group, revealed. “For example, they serve as teaching assistants, lab instructors, and mentors, and provide research opportunities for undergrads.”

Cultural competency becomes crucial at many levels of the GGSE--for responsive counseling in CCSP, for preparing teacher candidates skilled to succeed in multi-cultural schools in TEP.

“GGSE is not only helping students get through their BS/BA, we are preparing them for professional careers and graduate schools like GGSE,” states Prof. Duran. “We are helping develop culturally competent teachers, and placing graduates in policy positions that support services for HSIs.”


GGSE is continuing to do a lot of work for the HSI transition not just within UCSB, but also at state and national levels. “Our research programs are tending to issues of school achievement and the issues of completing school and moving on to college,” Prof. Duran explains. “Part of our research life is to publish content on Latino education issues and schooling policy issues to ultimately improve student outcomes.”

As an AAU member, UCSB needs to contribute new knowledge that can serve diverse populations including Latino populations. GGSE hopes not only to help undergraduate students understand diversity in classrooms, but also conduct research and lead outreach opportunities that promote excellence in education across the Santa Barbara community. “We plan to hold public events in the spring to highlight this work to the GGSE and to the wider campus community,” states Mary Betsy Brenner, Chair of the Department of Education and Senior Associate Dean. “We also hope to have more collaborations with others across campus as they understand what we can contribute to the campus conversation.”

Undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and the community are partnering to make the transition to an HSI institution a model for other educational institutions to follow. “I think we have a lot of work to do; this is not a time to think that just because we have made something happen, it’s an end state,” Richard Duran believes. “It’s important to understand better the range of ways our campus is contributing to supporting student diversity for all students.”