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Increasing the Number of Latino Faculty in Higher Education

By: Hannah Cronin & Cindy Rios

In the recent years, there has been an increase of Latina/o students enrolled in colleges and universities. Although this a great accomplishment, there still remain obstacles that result from underrepresentation such as low academic self-esteem as well as difficulty adjusting to college (Innovation Showcase, 2015). In 2015, college campuses across the United States led protests in demand of an increase of minority representation in university faculty and staff (Kodel, 2017). They believed that, by having cultural sensitivity training, and a diverse faculty, students of color would feel more integrated and represented. Since then, many colleges and universities have implemented programs and resources to integrate Latino students.

Students of color in predominantly white institutions are more likely to successfully pursue degree completion when they have faculty of color to serve as role models (Ponjuan, 2013).  In the article The Missing Piece to Latino Student Success… Recruiting and Retaining Latino Faculty Members, the authors highlight that the need for faculty of color goes beyond representation; it also impacts the classroom curriculum. Ponjuan notes that “faculty members of color are more likely to engage students in classroom dialogue and provide additional readings on race and ethnicity issues that challenge students’ preconceived ideas of racial/ethnic groups” (Ponjuan 2013). Integrating issues of race in the curriculum are essential for both white students and students of color, as it increases awareness and cultural consciousness for the student body.

Our local school, Sonoma State University, is predominantly white while the Latino population accounts for approximately 30% of the university’s total population. The percentage of Latino staff is much lower – accounting for only 10%. We can see there is a clear underrepresentation of Latinos in Sonoma State University’s faculty. Approximately 23% of the Santa Rosa Junior College faculty are Latino, significantly higher than SSU. The lack of Latino faculty is often due to barriers in the workplace that can create a challenging climate for the academic careers of Latino factuly. The article At Home in the Academy: Latina Faculty Counterstories and Resistances describe how Latino staff members are treated by their colleagues: “Latinos of both genders in the faculty ranks experience subtle racism and hostility from students and peers while Latina faculty members report feeling that their credibility as scholars or faculty members is challenged, and that White colleagues underestimate their abilities and discount the value they place on community advocacy” (Rodriguez, 2013). We can see there is a clear difference in the treatment of Latinos in the university compared to their white colleagues. Although this is not directly related to Sonoma State University, we can see a correlation between the underrepresentation of Latinos and the way in which their abilities get discredited in the university system. The challenges that Latino faculty face highlights the need to improve Latino students’ experiences in universities, encourage their degree completion, and increase the recruitment of Latino faculty.

As we look at solutions for improving Latino experiences at universities, increasing minority completion rates, and promoting diversity, it becomes clear that we need to look at individual universities and examine their values. According to Oliva and her colleagues, there are four main goals for promoting diversity in minorities on college campuses. The first goal is to develop a university-wide philosophy statement that encourages cultural diversity. This would include having a mission statement that embraces cultural diversity. “These mission statements should be publicly displayed, and openly discussed among student groups and faculty groups on campus if the diversity mission/philosophy is to permeate day to day campus activities” (Dumas, 2001). It is crucial for the campus to know their school wants to embrace and promote diversity. The second goal is to analyze the culturally diverse faculty and student composition on campus and set goals for enhancing diversity. “If universities truly desire to be reflective of a multicultural society, then each university must begin to collect and analyze data regarding its own campus and cultural diversity.” This goal makes it easy to see that there is an underrepresentation of minorities on college campuses. The third goal is to implement ways that increase retention among minorities. This may include involving students in research. The final goal is to “develop, a comprehensive plan for recruitment/retention activities that focus on enhancing cultural diversity on campus among faculty and student populations.” If a university uses this as a guideline for promoting diversity and retention we will begin to see more minority groups completing their degree aspiration because of their university’s dedication to diversity.

We hope that local universities consider implementing these solutions.


Cory, Kodel (2017) Examining faculty diversity at America’s top public universities


Innovation Showcase (2015) Breaking Down Barriers: First-Generation College Students and College Success https://www.league.org/innovationshowcase/breakingdownbarriersfirstgenerationcollegestudentsandcollegesuccess

Ponjuan, L. (2013). Recruiting and Retaining Latino Faculty Members. Education Digest, 78(5), 64-68.

Oliva, Maricela et al. (2013). At Home in the Academy: Latina Faculty Counterstories and Resistances. Educational Foundations.

Dumas-Hines, F. (2001) Promoting Diversity: Recommendations For Recruitment And Retention Of Minorities In Higher Education. College Student Journal. 35, 3, 433.