Recently, the Hispanic and Latinx Leadership Council was launched following the recommendation of Robert Medina, member of the NJIT Board of Trustees and NJIT alumnus. The primary goal is for the university to become a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), which is a part of the NJIT 2025 Strategic Plan. As a result, Medina suggested the creation of “a Leadership Council of prominent alumni, business leaders and community leaders to develop an initiative to support the goal of becoming a HSI through outreach, education and financial support.”
Currently, approximately 20% of NJIT’s undergraduates have Hispanic or Latinx backgrounds, and in order to achieve being an HSI, the proportion has to be at least 25%. Achieving such a status would qualify NJIT to earn additional federal and state aid for its students.
Another leader of the council, president of Latina Surge National and NJIT alumna Elisa Charters said that the council’s mission is aligned with “expanding reach beyond recruiting for a fully engaging authentic measure towards ‘Belonging.’” Achieving the goal of 25% is well in reach because the population trends from past years show rapidly increasing numbers of Hispanic or Latinx students.
The board contacted prominent alumni and leaders in business and the community to establish the council, growing having eleven members. The council has been spreading the message through the use of social media and contacting Hispanic publications. It has also been working with leaders of NJIT Development and Alumni Relations.
“Our leaders have committed to collaborate on this Council, and to apply high-level expertise towards positive impact via outreach efforts, both internally with various Hispanic/Latinx clubs and societies, and externally, to best connect with our communities of businesses, stakeholders and decision-makers,” Charters said. She has admired NJIT’s excellence in supporting diversity and multicultural students as well as allowing for underrepresented applicants to realize access to higher education.
“In 1987, I was accepted to NJIT’s Educational Opportunity Program, and benefitted from this platform as a ‘1st gen’ in my family to attend and graduate college,” she explained. “Helping NJIT continue the success of this platform is personally important to me as an alumna, and a Latina in tech.”
Medina referred to additional advantages of the council’s formation. “Reaching the goal of a HSI not only addresses equity and social justice in NJ, but also provides the opportunity to gain more federal and state funding for this student population through the HSI programs,” he stated. “This helps support scholarships and financial aid needed by many of NJIT’s students.” He graduated from the university in 1975, overseeing for many years the way that Hispanic and Latinx enrollment has stayed consistent with how New Jersey’s population has grown.
Thus far, the council has been able to have its initial meetings and start forming subcommittees in order to address particular action plans; there will be a discussion held with students and alumni to determine how to acknowledge experiences of people in the Hispanic and Latinx community at NJIT. There will also be conversations and liaisons with Latinx fraternities, sororities and STEM professional societies.
John Anthony Perez, a third year biomedical engineering major and a brother of a Latinx fraternity, Lambda Upsilon Lambda, Inc., spoke about what the formation of this council means to him. “Being a first-generation student myself, I know firsthand how difficult traversing college life is. You miss many opportunities based on the lack of knowledge others may already have from the get-go,” he commented. “This happens to be one of the many reasons I’ve decided to join La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. as many of us share similar struggles on our journey to a degree.”
Ever since Perex heard about the council, he has anticipated getting involved with it. “With hopes of creating a more inclusive and supportive community built around uplifting our fellow minority students to the best path towards success,” he said. “The impact this council may have on students moving forward may be tremendous, especially with the council being made up of currently established individuals in their respective fields.”
Medina included that “the mission of the HLLC is to provide advice and counsel to NJIT on the recruitment of Hispanic / Latinx students and staff and to strengthen relationships with K-12 school districts through the NJIT recruitment sphere.” Charters expressed, “Ultimately, our goal is access, opportunity, inclusion and belonging via enriched Hispanic/Latinx student experiences.”