ElCentro Hispanic Student Center

Sep 13, 2023

Natasha Eidson

HSI Week and Hispanic Heritage Month at OPSU

Oklahoma Panhandle State University takes great pride in its designation as the first and only public Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) university in Oklahoma. This remarkable achievement highlights the University’s dedication to fostering a welcoming environment for Hispanic students and recognizing the invaluable contributions of the Hispanic community. National HSI Week, September 11 – 17, and Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from September 15 to October 15, is a time to honor and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Hispanic and Latino communities. The Hispanic Student Center at OPSU is at the heart of these celebrations and works year-round to foster a positive learning environment for every Aggie.

Hispanic Student Center Director Virginia Cruz stated, “I am honored to be able to play an active role in ensuring the goals of the Hispanic Student Center are met, with students being provided with the opportunity to learn and grow through services provided by the center.”

“It’s a privilege to contribute to OPSU’s mission of inclusivity. Our University is dedicated to serving Hispanic students and fostering an environment where all students can thrive regardless of their background. I am proud to be a part of this journey,” said Omar Lira, HSC Administrative Assistant. “OPSU encourages people to pursue a career here in the Panhandle area by being an HSI.”

In 2020, OPSU received a Title V grant through the “Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program” from the United States Department of Education. This grant aims to enhance the existing curriculum with a track record of improving retention rates while introducing new academic programs to address the demands of the regional economy. Since then, the funding through the Title V Grant has expanded the advising services through the Hispanic Student Center, built a new writing center, and provided new software to help achieve institutional and Title V goals.

OPSU’s newest Writing Center provides instructional support to our diverse student population to help them achieve success, especially in the general education curriculum, which serves as gateway courses. Dr. Jarrett Kaufman, Title V Project Director, said, “The Title V grant funds the writing center operations because the grant and the writing center both seek to improve student academic success at OPSU.”
The Writing Center focuses on eight core benefits, including improving student writing skills, enhancing academic success, supporting diverse learners, fostering critical thinking, promoting academic integrity, encouraging collaboration, providing professional development opportunities, and improving retention rates.

“We are thrilled to introduce our new writing center as a testament to our commitment to fostering diverse voices and promoting academic excellence through writing,” said Martin Fulmer, Writing Center Director. “The Writing Center provides one-on-one writing consultations for students from all backgrounds so they can hone their professional writing skills while becoming astute readers of their own writing.”
To help achieve OPSU’s Title V outcomes, investments were made to improve the institutional infrastructure by implementing software that helps OPSU become more proactive and more data-driven. This investment included retention software where OPSU can identify students who need more academic assistance during the first week of the semester rather than waiting for mid-term grades to be reported. OPSU also adopted software that will improve course scheduling, which can help provide the right courses at the right time to help our students graduate on time. 

Our dedication to our students knows no bounds. Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Theresa Billiot stated, “The Hispanic Student Center is a hub of empowerment and support for our students. We strive to create environments where students can flourish academically and personally, celebrating their heritage while achieving their dreams.” The improvements in our software will equip our students with a competitive edge, ensuring their success not just at OPSU but in all their future endeavors.

Students and their success are at the heart of everything at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. Being an HSI allows faculty and staff to utilize additional resources to further impact the lives of students from all walks of life. As we look ahead, we are filled with excitement for the countless success stories yet to be written by our students. With the work of our faculty, staff, students, and community at OPSU, you can find your path to anywhere.

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