Achieving a significant enrollment milestone this fall, Marymount University has become the first higher education institution in the Commonwealth of Virginia to qualify as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). As defined in Title V of the Higher Education Act, HSI’s are not-for-profit, accredited institutions of higher learning with a full-time equivalent undergraduate student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic.
As determined in Marymount’s annual census which was completed in October, 25.1 percent of its undergraduate students identify as Hispanic, qualifying the University as a HSI for the first time. Across both undergraduate and graduate populations, 20 percent of Marymount students identify as Hispanic.
“This goal has been in our sights for some time now, and is an achievement that the entire University community can be proud of,” said Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University. “It goes beyond simply enrolling this population of students. College attendance among Hispanics has continued to increase nationally since the turn of the century, but the overall graduation rate has lagged behind. It is our mission to get these students to the finish line and have them earn degrees that will secure their future.”
The Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU), of which Marymount is a member, is a leader on behalf of the nation’s largest minority and its youngest and fastest growing population. The organization represents more than 500 colleges and universities committed to Hispanic student success in higher education.
HACU lists a total of 308 member institutions that qualify as Hispanic-Serving, with Montgomery College the only other regional HSI institution currently listed.
“Diversity is a source of strength at Marymount University, which strives to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives throughout the fabric of university life,” added James Dyke, a member of Marymount University’s Board of Trustees and the former Virginia Secretary of Education. “In this era of focusing on social justice issues, achieving the HSI designation is a huge deal for both Marymount and the Commonwealth.”
This is just the latest recognition of Marymount’s extensive cultural and ethnic diversity. In September, the University was ranked No. 1 for Most International Students among Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report, as well as No. 2 regionally for Campus Ethnic Diversity.
“This is a major accomplishment for Marymount, as diversity is a key core value that the entire University community celebrates every day,” explained Dr. William Bisset, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs at Marymount University. “It is also a testament to Marymount’s commitment to provide transformative opportunities to students who are the first in their families to attend college.”
This year, Marymount has taken concrete steps to support its many Hispanic students through the launching of ¡Avanzamos! (“Moving Forward Together”), the University’s holistic organizing framework and a Latino lens for campus-wide programs and student success efforts. It coordinates among departments and organizations within Marymount to ensure that the University’s focus includes issues that impact its Latino student population.
This framework is also part of the larger University effort to promote diversity and inclusion, “You Belong Here.”
“We are working diligently to create a campus culture that addresses the inequities Latino students may face by removing barriers to ensure student success,” said Brooke Berry, Marymount University’s Dean of Students, Equity and Inclusion. “Representation is a key factor in cultivating a sense of belonging, and we are committed to increasing our Latino-focused programming and hiring more diverse faculty and staff. We have to reimagine what the college experience looks like by centering the experiences of our underrepresented students.”
During Hispanic Heritage Month this year, ¡Avanzamos! sponsored extensive virtual and in-person events programming for students to get involved and learn about “Unity through Diversity.” It included a “Latinas in Leadership” event featuring President Becerra and two CEOs from Washington-area organizations, an alumni panel of Latinx, Latina and Latino graduates from Marymount and Hispanic Heritage-themed events with movies, books, painting and more.