UO embracing opportunities to meet, learn from Latino communities

From an increasingly diverse student body to teaching and research opportunities, there are many connections between the University of Oregon and the region's fastest-growing demographic group that has added texture and depth to the state for generations.

This fall, the UO anticipates an 11 percent increase in the number of students who identify as Hispanic/Latino in the freshman class, representing 8.8 percent of the entering class (compared to 7.7 percent in 2010.) While Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Roger Thompson agrees that this is great news, the UO is working hard to make the UO accessible for even more Latino and Hispanic students.

This weekend’s Woodburn Fiesta Mexicana will provide an opportunity to share information about the university and showcase the UO’s commitment to the Hispanic community.  The UO chose to make a three-year commitment to the Aug. 5 to Aug. 7 event to celebrate with the Hispanic community and talk with current and potential students and their families about opportunities in higher education. In addition, the UO also sponsored the recent Fiesta Latina in Springfield.

Last year, the UO was recognized in a report published by the Education Trust for gains in the six-year graduation rates for under-represented minority students. The UO ranked 15th in gains among the top 25 public research universities in the nation.

Recognizing that the skills needed to succeed in college begin long before enrollment application deadlines, the UO’s Oportunidades program educates students and parents to become active participants and advocates not only in the education of their children, but also for the educational system.

In 2010,the UO’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity joined forces with the Office of Admissions, the Robert D. Clark Honors College, Office of Multicultural Academic Success and the Division of Undergraduate Studies to create the Oportunidades Program.  The program counsels under-represented middle school and early high school students and their families from around Oregon to become active participants and advocates in the K-12 education process with the goal of successfully completing post-secondary education. The effort initially focused on the Latino and Native American communities in Springfield and Woodburn and is expanding to include a series of events for African American and Asian communities this fall.

For many years, the UO has worked with the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber to facilitate scholarships assisting Hispanic and Latino students. Beginning in 2011-12, the UO will match each scholarship awarded by the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamberto Hispanic students in Oregon who are admitted and enroll at the UO.

To enhance teaching and research opportunities, the UO's Center for Latino and Latin American Studies was established a year ago. The center recognizes the importance of Latino communities throughout the U.S., and combines their study with analysis of the histories, politics and cultures of Latin American countries.

In addition, the UO Libraries is now home to the complete collection of historic documents from PCUN – Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (in English, the Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United) -- Oregon's oldest and largest Latino union. The goal is for the collection to be accessible for conducting research and access by the public.