Texas State University (TXST) has been a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) since 2011 and was awarded the Seal of Excelencia in Sep. 2022 for its’ intentional service to Hispanic and Latinx students. Texas State University is also a First-gen Forward Institution with 46% of students being First-Generation.
But what does Texas State University do for First-Gen Latinx students?
Texas State University offers a number of organizations, associations, and resources for First-Gen and Latinx students. For example, the First-Gen Proud Campaign at TXST which helps students by ensuring their success through mentorship. The First-Gen Proud Campaign held their First-Gen Graduation Celebration on April. 22 . TXST President Kelly Damphousse and the Director for Peer Mentoring and First-Gen Student Success, Dr. Rafael R. Almazar, presented First-Gen TXST graduates with a special First-Gen stole. Dr. Almazar said TXST offers education, but also representation and a sense of community.
“Knowing the fact that we have such a large Latinx population, I think it helps build a sense of belonging,” said Dr. Almazar. “It’s easy to find our culture, find our food, find support and mentors because a lot of faculty and staff members are Latinx.”
TXST is a minority-majority university in regards to student demographics, but the faculty demographics do not reflect the same data. White/Non-Hispanic faculty outnumber Hispanic/Latinx faculty 920 to 147 as of Fall 2022. Dr. Sara Rameriz is an assistant professor in English and a member of the First-Gen committee. Dr. Rameriz said TXST needs to hire more First-Gen Latinx faculty.
“We need more professors that are invested in helping First-gen students succeed,” said Dr. Rameriz. “I would hope that an HSI would allow these professors who are working with First-Gen Latinx students to give them more opportunities and resources to help first gen students.” Dr. Rameriz said Latinx professors are desired in university systems, but aren’t paid enough.
Dr. Sara Rameriz said her experience as a First-Gen Latinx professor at TXST has been enjoyable in comparison to her years as an undergraduate. “I had only three people of color professors in English,” said Dr. Rameriz. “I knew I wanted to help students identify with me as I had identified with those professors.”
Dr. Rameriz said she wants to be able to be a mentor to her First-Gen Latinx students because she feels they need mentorship. “Sometimes I have to say no to students, students I want to help. It’s horrible,“ said Dr. Rameriz. “I wish there was a system where I could mentor students and do my research and teach my classes.”
TXST does offer broad mentorship to freshmen students through the University Seminar courses, which is a course that all freshmen must take as it shows them how to assimilate to college life. Through these courses, freshmen are set up with a peer mentor, an upperclassman who checks in with the students in regards to their courses and necessities. Crystal Dominguez is senior Lead PACE Peer Mentor and a First-Gen Latinx.
Dominguez said TXST often gears events towards First-Gen and Latinx students which offers helpful resources for students coming into college such as events with the First-Gen, Low-Income (FLIP) organization. “A lot of First-Gen students are Latinx and being a peer mentor I am able to connect with the students and I always try to connect with my First-Gen students and offer them my support,” said Dominguez.
Among the associations and programs offered at TXST, there are also grant opportunities such as the Hector and Gloria Lopez Foundation (HGLF) which is a $1.7M grant. The grant was announced in March 2023. The grant will offer students support to cover tuition and other resources. “They will receive a free ride to their education,” said Dr. Alamzar. “If they need money for a conference, they will get that (money). If they need money to go home or to bring their parents or for books. They will be able to receive funds. ”
The grant will be offered to 15 First-Gen Latinx students from specific areas in Texas such as El Paso, Austin, San Antonio, South Texas, and the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). “These areas are where a lot of our Latinx students are coming from low income households,” said Dr. Almazar.