This overview details accomplishments and future work toward 46 recommendations detailed by the Latinx/Hispanic Working Group, which issued its final report in 2018.
As Elon University prepares to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, its Latinx/Hispanic Implementation Team is offering a look at accomplishments in recent years and updates on initiatives planned or already underway.
The implementation team stems from the work of the university’s Latinx/Hispanic Working Group, which presented 46 recommendations to the university in its final report in 2018. The working group was operating under the charge “to make recommendations about Elon University’s policies and practices in order to make the university community a more supportive academic, work, and residential environment for Latinx/Hispanic students, faculty, staff and alumni.”
This charge guided both the data-collection process, through secondary and primary research, and the final report. These 46 recommendations span all departments on campus, including academic affairs and student affairs, and they touch on areas such as admissions, orientation, student activities, alumni engagement, and employment of Latinx faculty and staff.
Sylvia Muñoz, interim director for the CREDE/director of El Centro, and Vanessa Bravo, associate professor of strategic communications, chaired the Latinx/Hispanic Working Group comprised of eight faculty, staff and students. They also presented the final report to the university’s Senior Staff before the creation of an implementation team to monitor the next process: making the recommendations a reality.
Since spring 2019, the Latinx/Hispanic Implementation Team of about 10 faculty and staff members from across the university and co-chaired by Bravo and Joan Ruelle, dean of the Carol Grotnes Belk Library, has been working to connect recommendations to campus offices that are closest to the work. The team’s work is to support colleagues in prioritizing the implementation of these recommendations.
The process towards fully implementing the recommendations has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with its social, operational and financial implications. However, even with the pandemic disruption, there have been some advancements toward these goals.
Accomplishments to Date
The following list reflects some of the main outcomes accomplished by colleagues all across campus over the last two years. Organized by area, these accomplishments support the goal of creating a positive environment for Latinx students, faculty and staff at Elon.
Welcome to Elon and success while at Elon
- Elon hired a new assistant director of admissions for diversity and access. In this role, Kimberly Romero who focuses strongly on prospective Latinx students and their families.
- Elon is in a search process to hire an associate dean of admissions for diversity and access to recruit historically underrepresented students in our campus.
- In her role as assistant director of admissions for diversity and access, Romero led colleagues in the implementation of a bilingual enrollment program called “Viva Elon!” With online open houses in fall 2020, and spring 2021, this effort aims to offer prospective students the opportunity to speak with Latinx/Hispanic faculty, staff and students about Elon.
- Office of Admissions and Financial Aid staff participated in inclusive excellence training.
- Campus tours are now available in Spanish upon request.
- New Student and Transition Programs, the Center for Access and Success and the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education partnered to create a bilingual session for families during Move-In weekend.
- There is more visibility of Spanish-speaking staff and volunteers during Move-In Day with “Yo Hablo Español” buttons that identify them.
- “Conexiones,” a pen pal program created by the Office of Admissions and El Centro, creates connections between accepted and current Elon students.
- Elon has a section of its website in Spanish. The webpage is called Información sobre Elon (Information about Elon), and it contains information in Spanish about the university, its accreditations, campus, admissions process, financial aid and scholarship opportunities, majors and minors and important contact information. This webpage can be found at https://www.elon.edu/u/admissions/undergraduate/international-admissions/quienes-somos/
Organizations, spaces, experiences and resources
- El Centro is going through a transformation from a language center into a Latinx/Hispanic Center. It has a new mission and vision and three main areas of focus: Mi Gente (My People), Mi Educación (My Education), and Mi Comunidad (My Community). A newly redesigned website at www.elon.edu/elcentro is reflective of this change. The Spanish version of the website will soon be launched.
- Two new Latinx/Hispanic-serving organizations exist now at Elon: Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. and Chi Upsilon Sigma sorority.
- Elon created a Latinx/Hispanic Employee Resource Group that meets once a month. This group is co-chaired by Bravo and Interim Vice President for Communications and Marketing Keren Rivas.
Curriculum and campus climate
- Elon created the position of coordinator of core forums and diversity in the Core Curriculum. Recently, one of the “common reading” books at Elon was written by a Latinx author about her lived experience as one of the few Latinx students at a private university.
- The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning is collecting information to help establish a mentoring system for Latinx faculty, and it is also continuing its diversity & inclusion grants.
- A working group was formed to evaluate and update the Bias Response System.
- A new online training for faculty and staff called Preventing Harassment and Discrimination was implemented by Human Resources.
- Latinx faculty and staff have actively sought to have a presence in groups recently created at Elon that are making a strong impact on policies and practices and in the institution. They now have a presence on PACIE (the President’s Advisory Council on Inclusive Excellence) and its subcommittees, on the American Council of Education Learner Success Lab committee at Elon, which is focusing specifically on mentoring, and they were part of the Spring 2021 DEI Working Group on Curriculum and the Spring 2021 DEI Working Group on Professional Development/Faculty Evaluation.
Room for improvement: Representation
Some of the working group’s recommendations are still in initial stages or pending, and some will require more time to be implemented. Perhaps the most salient is the need to attract and retain more Latinx faculty and staff.
In the United States, Latinx people comprise about 20 percent of the population, but that is not reflected at Elon. While the numbers of faculty members of other underrepresented groups also fall short in comparison to the U.S. demographics, there has been growth in the last 10 years, in the number of Asian/Asian-American professors at Elon (100 percent increase) and of Black professors at Elon (30 percent increase).
When it comes to Latinx faculty, however, the need for improvement is especially noticeable: In 2013, there were 10 Latinx faculty members at Elon. In 2020, there were 9. Through the last 10 years, the percentage of Latinx professors at Elon has always remained close to 2 percent.
This is far from the 19 percent Latinx representation in U.S. demographics and also far from the percentage of college professors of Latinx origin in the United States, which was 6 percent in 2018, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. When it comes to Latinx staff members, the percentage at Elon is about 3 percent. In both cases, the numbers are still far from where Elon aspires to be.
In the near future, there could be improvements in this area as Elon implements some intentional steps, coordinated by Human Resources, to increase the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff of color. Elon has also hired several people of Latinx origin in key positions on campus in the last couple of years, including new hires in the Center for Access and Success, Counseling Services, El Centro and among the faculty.
Looking forward, the Latinx Implementation Team will continue to work in collaboration with different areas at Elon, and supported now by the Division of Inclusive Excellence, led by Randy Williams, vice president and associate provost of Inclusive Excellence.
If any member of our Elon community wants to obtain more information or contact the members of the Implementation Team, please feel free to reach out to them. Currently, the Implementation Team is formed by Vanessa Bravo, Joan Ruelle, Sylvia Muñoz, Federico Pous, Oscar Miranda, Aliana Harrison, Nina Namaste, Matt Buckmaster and Kelli Shuman.