UIW Hosts Berkeley Professor for Hispanic Heritage Month Keynote Address and Workshop

September 22, 2023

On Thursday, September 21, UIW welcomed Dr. Gina Garcia to speak to the campus community during Hispanic Heritage Month. Garcia is a professor at the Berkeley School of Education and a leading scholar on Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). When delivering public lectures, she hopes to encourage her audiences to consider the roll postsecondary education plays within society, assist campus personnel in considering how they can better serve other minoritized communities, and ultimately advocate for inclusivity within higher education.  

Thus far in her career, Garcia has published three books that focus on HSIs. On Thursday, she took the stage to discuss her most recent book, Transforming Hispanic-Serving Institutions for Equality and Justice. According to her website her book “offers a framework for transforming HSIs into truly Latinx-serving. The framework is grounded in critical theories, yet it advances new ways of thinking about how to organize colleges and universities that are actively serving students of color, low-income students, and students from other minoritized backgrounds.” 

Garcia had the opportunity to give a keynote speech regarding her book as well as the ongoing work that she continues to contribute towards HSIs.  

She noted that she constantly references in her book the idea of “transformation” and how organizations can be transformed to better serve minoritized communities. “How do we do organizational change in order to serve students, center their ways of knowing, and elevate their community cultural wealth?” Garcia asked, wanting those in higher education to consider how they can better liberate students through education in order to become more effective HSIs.  

She explained that an important part of being able to consider how to serve a diverse community of students is to remain identity conscious. “Identity conscious, meaning that we acknowledge students’ lived realities,” Garcia explained, “that we acknowledge the racialized experiences, their gendered experiences, their indigenous experiences, all of that shows up with them. Our students bring that. That is the community cultural wealth that our students are bringing with us.” 

She also felt it important to note that HSIs don’t only serve Hispanic students, but also students of other identities and communities. “Black students, Asian American students, indigenous students, white students, all of these students are in HSIs, and so there's no claim that HSI has to be exclusionary.”  

Garcia shared that the work of HSIs is not to “save” students, but that schools should empower students and their communities to tap into their potential to achieve greatness. “Community engagement with HSIs is where you have the advancement, the upliftment of communities our students have come from, which are historically minoritized, working with our students in our communities to enhance the self-agency and the self-determination within those communities.”  

UIW’s Associate Provost of Student Success, Dr. Monica Ayala Jimenez, aided in the coordination of this event. “My hope was to provide a platform and safe space for our students, staff, faculty, and administrators to talk about what is happening at UIW in terms of serving students. Awareness is the key that leads to action,” Jimenez shared. 

Although Garcia’s voice kicked off the day’s events, the diverse voices of UIW students were also heard. “Bringing diverse voices (like Garcia’s) to campus helps us as an institution to understand the needs of our students and to equitably distribute resources to them. We must listen to our students, acknowledge their lived experiences, and then support them by removing barriers that hinder progress. Every voice matters.” 

For more Hispanic Heritage Month events coming up at UIW, click here.