Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Untapped talent in Latino communities could be rich recruitment grounds for colleges and universities. Elle Victoria-Vasquez and Matthew Vasquez, graduate students in the UI's School of Social Work, share their thoughts on ways to maximize recruitment efforts among Latinos.

Graduate College: Why do you think it's important to enhance Latino recruitment efforts? 

Elle: For our nation to continue to lead in the world, we need to raise college graduation levels back to former levels. We have slipped in recent years, and without an educated population, the United States won't be able to compete in the global economy. Research shows that it is not possible to regain our standing without recruiting and graduating minorities, particularly from the Mexican American population, which is the fastest-growing group. In Iowa, we lead the country in other aspects of education and in our political policies. Iowa could continue in that vein by graduating more minorities, especially those from Iowa's growing Latino population.

Graduate College: Why is it difficult to recruit from Latino communities?

Elle: There is a lot of untapped talent that we have trouble accessing at Iowa because of some basic barriers. First, it's important to hold events where the students live. It may be intimidating or difficult for potential students to come to our campus. Send a grad student to corner store, to library, to the Laundromat.

Second, make sure the presenter is not intimidating to them. Some basics on cultural competency can help people understand aspects of Latino communities. For example, family is very important, so presentations about higher education should involve the whole family: parents and all the siblings. You could spend a lot, but you don’t need to. You do what works, and what works does not have to cost a lot.

Graduate College: Eventually, it's good to get the prospective students to a campus visit. What might be good strategies?

Elle: Host a parents weekend for prospective students and their families. I would have a peer driven Latino group. We would give a bilingual tour for parents and the whole family; a tour given by an older person who is culturally competent. Smaller tours and smaller events would be better, since the tour guide could be sensitive if the family is uncomfortable with the academic atmosphere.