GV receives ‘Seal of Excelencia’ award for aid of Latinx students


Olivia Fellows, News Writer

Grand Valley State University takes every advantage of creating an inclusive and safe learning environment for all students. In May, GVSU was recognized by Excelencia in Education with the inaugural Seal of Exelencia for being a “national trendsetter in serving our Latinx students.”

The award was given based on GVSU’s intuition and steady work in inclusivity for Latinx students. GVSU was specifically recognized for demonstrating positive momentum in the data for Latinx students, effectiveness and intentionality in institutional practices serving Latinx students, alignment of data and practice in serving Latinx students, and strategies in leadership that clearly articulate institutional focus on advancing Latinx student success.

Vice President for Inclusion and Equity Jesse Bernal said the award came as a result of the many programs GVSU offers for Latinx students. Programs like Laker Familia Orientation and Laker Familia Mentoring Program are the two most notable programs designed for Latinx students.

In 2014, Laker Familia Orientation was launched as a three-day orientation to provide successful transition from high school to college by welcoming first-year Latinx students to campus and immediately connecting them with the knowledge and skills to navigate campus resources. 

“GVSU strives to create an environment where all students can thrive and be their full, authentic selves,” Bernal said. “Specifically for Latinx students, GVSU has had a concerted effort to review the impact of programs and practices on this population. The retention rate of Latino students has increased two percent (from 80 percent to 82 percent) compared to one percent overall since 2015 and is among the highest Latino graduation rates in the nation and the second highest in the state of Michigan.” 

GVSU has also implemented the Latinx Student Initiative (LSI), which consists of 12 university departments designed to coordinate and formalize institutional efforts around the goals of improving the recruitment, retention and graduation of Latinx students at GVSU. As part of LSI, a Latino Faculty/Staff Association and Latino Alumni Association were also created to provide holistic engagement and support of the entire Latino community at GVSU. GVSU has many student organizations that celebrate Latinx culture, including Laker Familia and the Latino Student Union. 

Bernal said many of GVSU’s own staff worked together to create some of these programs and others that thrive on inclusivity. He explained that because of programs like these, Latinx graduation rates have increased over 16 percent since 2015.

GVSU is now the third largest producer of baccalaureate degrees of Latinos in the state. Since 2015-2016, Latinx student enrollment has increased 16.2 percent, and Latinx transfer student enrollment has increased 14.4 percent. Latino faculty have increased over 20 percent and staff nearly 50 percent since 2015.

“Many of GVSU’s faculty members are instrumental in creating a campus and classroom climate that is welcoming and inclusive for all students, particularly students from underrepresented backgrounds,” Bernal said. “Professors John Bender, Julie Guevara, Nancy Giardina, Raul Ysasi and Ellen Schendel were instrumental in advancing the Latino Student Initiative. The initiative and our advancements in Latinx student success would not be possible without the vision and commitment of Provost Maria Cimitile. Of course, many staff, in particular partners in the Enrollment Development Division, are dedicated partners in advancing the LSI objectives.”