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Transforming Sac State's HSI Website

Amber M. Gonzalez, Kevin Ferreira van Leer, Jacky Villalobos, Yeni Meza, Mariposas con Voces, and Songs of the Hummingbird


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Hispanic Serving Institution is a federal designation for higher education institutions that enroll 25% or more Latine/Hispanic undergraduate students as well meet minimum criteria of enrolling Pell-eligible students. According to Garcia (2019) HSIs are extremely diverse and have a responsibility to examine their organizational structure for serving Latine students. Garcia (2019) argues that the organizational structure for servingness is multidimensional and can be found in university mission and value statements; HSI grant activities; decision-making processes; equity-minded leadership practices; policies; curricular and co-curricular structures; institutional advancement activities; compositional diversity of faculty, staff, administrators, and graduate students; and engagement with the community. Additionally, Mitchneck et al (2023) argues that evidence of a university’s attention to servingness can be found through specific mention of the HSI identity in university communications.

 

College and University websites are a platform for sharing information, news, updates, and announcements with students, families, and community members. These websites are often the most convenient way for people to access information about an institution. Often university websites provide information on their mission and values as well as dedicated webpages to programs, student life, academics, athletics, and university initiatives. Therefore, college and university websites need to be updated regularly and provide useful information to the user in a clear, and accessible way.

 

The Using our Voices to Transform HSIs is a project that explores Latine student perceptions of servingness at Sacramento State, a Hispanic Serving Institution. The project aims to interrogate how university policy, programs, and practices support Latine student success. In collaboration with Latine student co-researchers, that project included an advisory board made up of campus administrators from across various units including financial aid and student wellness. Utilizing findings from the research project, the advisory board and Latine students identified a number of policies, programs, and practices that need to be transformed to better serve them. One such practice was examining our Sacramento State web page dedicated to HSI campus programming, resources, initiatives, and grants (Figure 1), a critical location where the university has the opportunity to demonstrate servingness.

 

Of the 23 CSU campuses, 21 of the campuses met HSI criteria in 2023. Of those 21 CSU HSIs, only 13 have dedicated university websites dedicated to their HSI initiatives. These websites vary in terms of the information they provide. Together, our research team reviewed the 13 CSUs that have dedicated HSI websites. We examined the statements on the websites, the resources and services that were highlighted, and the organizational structure of each of the websites. The research team highlighted various elements on these websites that provided useful information about university’s HSI elements and were easy to navigate. We kept in mind our findings on how Latine students perceive the institution as serving them and how these websites reflected these findings.


The key elements identified include:

  • Pictures of Latine students, faculty, and staff;

  • Spotlights students;

  • Defines Hispanic Serving Institutions;

  • Identifies university HIS initiatives and goals and provides annual reports on successes and opportunities for growth; and

  • Explains university HIS awards and grants.

 

With these elements in mind, the research team also reviewed our own Sac State dedicated HSI website (Figure 1) which is housed within the campus’ Student Affairs Division. In addition, they discussed the websites’ purpose and various elements with the Serna Center Coordinator, Noel Mora. The Serna Center is a central support program that is aimed at cultivating an environment for Chicanx/Latinx students through various programming. Utilizing their findings from the analysis of other CSU-HSI dedicated websites, the research team developed an aspirational Sac State HSI website (Figure 2).  The goal was to update the dedicated HSI website to include a dedicated HSI mission and value statement, current information on events for Latine students, programming and resources dedicated to serving Latine students, a space to highlight news related to Sac State’s HSI identity, information on HSI related awards and grants, and a space to highlight Latine faculty and staff activities. The hope is that having a website that is more reflective of current initiatives and the Latine community will bring more opportunities for the campus community to interact and engage with each other on HSI campus related initiatives.















In early 2024, the research team took their aspirational HSI website and consulted with Sac State’s Director of Equity and Affinity Centers, Dr. Erik Ramirez; Serna Center Coordinator, Juana Zaragoza; and Principal Investigator of Career4Equity DHSI Grant, Dr. Melissa Repa. 


After consultations, the research team met with university web designers to make improvements to the dedicated HSI website, including (Figure 3):

  • Pictures of Latine students;

  • Spotlight on Latine faculty activities;

  • Providing a clear definition on what the designation of HSI means;

  • Clear values statement on what it means for Sac State to be an HSI;

  • Highlight on programming, centers, events and activities that serve Latine students;

  • Information on HSI awards and grants – including grant PI, project purpose and activities, annual performance reviews;

  • Sac State servingness in the news; and

  • National organizations that are focused on HSI.

Recognizing that not all of our website elements on our aspirational web design could be implemented, we are committed to continuing our collaboration with Sac State web designers to make improvements on the following:

  • Latine history at Sac State;

  • Map of murals on campus and how each of these connect to Latine culture; 

  • Complete information on all HSI awards and grants;

  • University HSI strategic goals and priorities; and

  • University HIS annual performance report that highlights Latine student academic and nonacademic outcomes as well as Latine faculty/staff/administration recruitment and retention efforts. 


Collaborating provides opportunities to address challenges, and engage with and serve students better. It also allows staff, faculty and students to learn about what one another are doing on campus to promote Latine student success, even identifying synergies and sharing resources. – Dr. Melissa Repa Director, Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions’ Project “Career4Equity”

This project has created an opportunity for Sac State to examine institutional elements and their organizational identity to move beyond Latine-enrolling to Latine-serving (Garcia, 2019) and has identified promising changes that can transform the institution. Additionally, it demonstrates that an action research process that includes faculty, students, and administrators’ collaboration is central for identifying and changing institutional elements on university campuses to better serve their communities.


References

 

Garcia, G.A., Núñez, A.M. & Sanson, V.A. (2019). Toward a multidimensional conceptual framework for understanding “servingness” in Hispanic-Serving institutions: A synthesis of the research. Review of Educational Research, 80(5), 745-784. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654319864591

Mitchneck, B., Crockett, J.S., Franco, M., Núñez, A.M. & Endemaño Walker, B.L. (2023) Assessing institutional change toward servingness in Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning55(6), 37-4., DOI: 10.1080/00091383.2023.2263192


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