University is finalist for Seal of Excelencia


Laker Familia students. Courtesy GVSU/Autumn Johnson

A local university is being recognized nationally for its service to Latino students.

Grand Valley State University is among 20 finalists for the Seal of Excelencia from Excelencia in Education, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that seeks to improve education outcomes for Latino college students.

The Seal of Excelencia is awarded for “commitment to serving Latino/Hispanic students and providing tools to help them earn degrees.”

GVSU is the only finalist in Michigan and one of two in the Midwest.

The inaugural recipients of the seal will be named on June 20 in Washington, D.C.

The number of Latino and Hispanic students at GVSU has increased from 1,079 in 2015-16 to 1,237 in 2018.

Jesse Bernal, VP for inclusion and equity, said a number of initiatives and programs have contributed to recruiting and retaining Latino and Hispanic students: Laker Familia, a cohort-based mentorship program; a partnership with the Hispanic Center of West Michigan to host a summer internship program; and endowed private scholarships awarded to students, with emphasis given to undocumented students.

"We set up integrated elements throughout the institution that set a strong national model for what institutions can do to intentionally serve Latino students while serving all students,” Bernal said.

In 2016, GVSU President Thomas Haas was the first university president in Michigan to join Excelencia's Presidents for Latino Student Success. He said joining Excelencia fit within the university's strategic plan to provide students with the tools for success.

"We recognize the changing demographics of the nation, particularly the growing Latino population, and what an important role they will play in the future of our region and state," Haas said. "We will continue our forward momentum to capture the talents of students of color and engage them while they are part of our campus community."

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