Hispanic haven
How UCI helps Latino students strive and thrive
By Lilibeth Garcia


While National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15) honors the achievements of Americans who hail from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America and Spain, UCI is continually aware of the accomplishments of Hispanic faculty, staff, students and alumni. In 2017, the university was named a Hispanic-serving institution, a federal designation meaning – among other things – that one-quarter of undergraduates identify as Latino. And because UCI is the most popular University of California campus among the state’s Latino high school graduates, those numbers are projected to grow. Below are some of the programs, people and opportunities that enable Hispanic students at UCI to thrive:

For students interested in researching the historical and modern experiences of Hispanic cultures and Americans with Latin American roots, options abound. UCI offers a bachelor’s degree, a minor, a certificate program and a graduate emphasis in Chicano/Latino studies. A Spanish major and minor, a minor in Spanish bilingual education and a graduate program are available through the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. In addition, the UCI Latin American Studies Center facilitates dialogue among scholars, students and local community members through public programs, conferences, film screenings and musical events relating to Latin America and its diaspora.

UCI boasts renowned Latino faculty, alumni and administrators. Among them is Distinguished Professor Emerita Vicki Ruiz, who was awarded the 2014 National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama for her pioneering work in Chicana/Latina studies. Héctor Tobar, associate professor of Chicano/Latino studies and English, won a Pulitzer Prize while reporting at the Los Angeles Times. Eloy Ortiz Oakley, a first-generation student who earned a bachelor’s degree and an MBA at UCI, is the first Latino chancellor of California Community Colleges. And Enrique Lavernia, UCI provost and executive vice chancellor, is of Hispanic descent.

There are at least two dozen Latino student organizations on campus, ranging from career-focused and recreational clubs and multicultural fraternities/sororities to political and social justice groups and even a Latino theater ensemble. So that students can explore the options, an annual Latino involvement fair, La Bienvenida, is held at the beginning of fall quarter (Sept. 27 this year).

Casa César Chávez, a 24-resident theme house in the Arroyo Vista complex on campus, provides students with a variety of academic, social and cultural activities. Although it’s sponsored by the Chicano/Latino studies department, all students are welcome. La Casa Nuestra, also in Arroyo Vista, is a strictly Spanish-speaking theme house in which students can improve their language skills and learn more about Hispanic cultures.

UCI is only the second member of the prestigious Association of American Universities to be federally designated as a Hispanic-serving institution – a status that makes faculty, staff and students eligible to apply for minority-serving institution grants, internships and partnerships.

UCI’s one-of-a-kind Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community educates medical students about the needs of underserved Latino communities through interdisciplinary classes and hands-on training. In addition to standard coursework, the future physicians take Chicano/Latino studies classes that mix sociology with medicine and learn the values of leadership, advocacy and service.

Of the 117,330 applications that UCI received for fall 2019, 25,794 were from in-state Latino high school students – more than at any other UC campus.

On Oct. 5, the Hispanic 100 Foundation will host its 10th Annual Dale Dykema Lifetime Achievement Award Gala and bestow the 2019 Chairman’s Scholarship on UCI law student Jessica Michelle .