Goshen College’s focus on becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) began with the increase of the Hispanic population in the Goshen community.
Many areas, like Ligonier, Elkhart and Goshen, are majority-minority communities, or well on their way to becoming one. This means that the majority of the population consists of a combination of minority groups. Goshen College’s attempted demographic shift is to match the Latino population surrounding it.
According to HACU.net, to become an HSI, Goshen College needs 25 percent of the student body to be Latino or Hispanic. This qualifies the college to apply for certain funds that help improve access and support for post-secondary education within the Hispanic population.
Dr. Rebecca Hernandez, associate dean for intercultural development and educational partnerships, said, “This is a benefit for all of our students. The world has come to our door. So why not take advantage of the kinds of learning we can do together and grow to meet that really wonderful core value of global citizenship?”
Lilly Endowment, Inc. gave a transformational grant to Goshen College in 2006, which has been used to make the campus more accessible to all kinds of students.
“This is the vision we have here: to be an intercultural world house, to be the people who live out our core values at home and abroad,” said Hernandez. “It’s harder to do it here than abroad, because I’m asking you [to] squish over and I’m going to scoot in with you.”
Within the last 6 years, becoming an HSI was a strategy created to help the college be more diverse.
“I want to be clear, it is just a strategy. It is certainly not an end all be all,” Hernandez said.
Outreach, community engagement and classes for Latino adults at the college are all techniques that help Goshen College to reach closer to the 25 percent threshold.
“All of that helps to build a relationship with the Latino community and helps all students see Goshen College as an option,” said Hernandez.
To continue the grant for eight years, instead of the original five, there have been changes to policies, practices, curriculum, discussions and the kinds of education Goshen College provides.
More bilingual staff members have been hired, more Spanish advertising has been produced and there has been more training for professors to improve practices to benefit all students, especially students of color.
Hernandez said, “I came here [to Goshen College] because I knew that if we can do changes in systems, changes in curriculum and changes in access, in a context where people want to do that–to live out God’s vision–I want to be there.”
The college is also working on ways to be a pipeline for the community so that Hispanic students have easier access to higher education.
Said Hernandez, “If we could partner with K-12 institutions, we could maybe help change the pipeline and support kids in the system to be more prepared for college and build a college going culture.”
“A college education can give people the choices and freedom to do what they are passionate about,” she said.
Hernandez spoke about how the established Mennonite culture tries to understand and connect with other cultures. It is wonderful, she says, but practicing it is a struggle.
“At this place, at this moment in time, Goshen College wants to step in this hard, difficult place and wants to be that place that learns to live together,” she said. “Goshen is asking, how do we learn to live together in peace?”
Goshen College is striving to be an HSI to serve the growing Hispanic population, but also to create a “world house.”
“If you are willing to stay in the conversation, we can bring the kinds of things we say we want as Christians, around peace, justice and inclusion,” said Hernandez. “Basically mirroring Revelations 7 that says we are going to be the church of God that includes all people.”