Though Goshen College was thrilled to receive the designation of a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) last January, it was still unclear to many what this meant practically for students. 

According to last year’s press release, the designation comes as a result of the college having 25% of its full-time undergraduate students identifying as Hispanic and a high number of students who demonstrate financial need.

The primary benefits of the designation are that the college now has access to Title III and Title V funds through the U.S. Department of Education. For example, GC became eligible for and recently received a $3 million grant that opened in April.

Gilberto Pérez Jr., dean of students and vice president for student life and Hispanic serving initiatives, has taken on a new role this year, adding the “Hispanic serving initiatives” to his title as a way to continue to prioritize the new designation. 

His additional responsibilities include chairing the HSI committee, made up of GC staff and faculty “tasked at analyzing the different strategies and ways that we engage with Latinx students on campus and off campus,” Pérez said. He also explained that their goal is to “build synergy around possible initiatives that would support those Latinx students.”

Pérez also chairs the Latino Advisory Council, a new group made up of community members who are not employees of the college. That committee seeks to connect Latino business and families and, as Pérez said, “continue the pathway of being an HSI.”

Pérez feels confident that the college is moving forward in the process. “We have a great opportunity to learn ways to better serve students, better support students, increase retention and move to higher graduation rates,” he said. 

Kat Columna, a sophomore graphic design major, was also looking forward to another possible practical application of the designation: “I have heard there was a possibility of having more scholarships, which I was excited about.” 

As a first generation college student, Columna acknowledged that financial concerns are often more of a burden when looking at higher education.

Pérez said, “the beauty of being designated is we continue the work that we have been doing to support students.”

Despite being eight months since the designation, Pérez said, “we are in the very early stages of understanding what it means to be an HSI. … We have work to do to find out what type of HSI we want to be.”