It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month! And we need to talk about clubs and community on college campuses. What truly makes a college diverse is the culturally diverse community that’s built from the students who attend. Hispanic students bring incredibly rich heritages from a wide range of countries, providing other students with a more global mindset. Here’s what Hispanic diversity looks like on college campuses in the US and the organizations that students can join to support and celebrate many incredible ethnicities and cultures.
Hispanic diversity on college campuses
Hispanic students come from 20 Spanish-speaking countries, including Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, and more. According to the US Census Bureau, the US Hispanic population hit nearly 60 million in 2018, with the largest representation of Hispanic individuals coming from Mexico. The representation of Hispanic individuals on college campuses shows a dedication to equity and access to education for this large and diverse population of people. It’s so important that the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities honors schools for their dedication to Hispanic students by designating them as Hispanic-Serving Institutions if 25% or more of their students are Hispanic, allowing those students to find and attend schools that represent them well. In fact, the Hispanic-Serving institution with the highest percentage of Hispanic students, at 95%, is Texas A&M International University, according to U.S. News & World Report.
But a diverse population of Hispanic students is nothing if they don’t feel supported and celebrated on campus by both the college administration as well as your fellow students. One crucial way for students to feel welcome on campus is through representation in college clubs, groups, and organizations dedicated to cultural awareness, professional development, and more—making it easy for Hispanic students to connect and build community with others. The best part is that everyone on campus can get involved!
Supporting Hispanic students as a non-Hispanic student
While there are clubs exclusively for students of Hispanic descent to support them in their academic and professional successes, there are also plenty of organizations and groups that welcome students of all backgrounds to join and learn more about their Hispanic friends and peers. Learning about new cultures is a mutually beneficial experience for all students, helping everyone to feel heard and valued as well as become more global and understanding. If you’re a non-Hispanic student, don’t be afraid to inquire with Hispanic-centered groups on your campus to find out if students of all ethnicities can join.
Types of Hispanic clubs on college campuses
There are four main types of student groups dedicated to Hispanic students, two of which often include non-Hispanic students as well: cultural appreciation clubs, activist and community service organizations, pre-professional groups, and Hispanic Greek life. If you’re wondering what type of Hispanic-centered clubs may be best for you, think of this as your starter guide.
Cultural appreciation clubs
The purpose of Hispanic cultural appreciation clubs is obvious: to highlight the valuable contributions and rich, complex beauty of Hispanic cultures. Clubs like this include Iona University's Organization of Latinx American Students, which encourages students from all ethnic backgrounds to join and participate in fun events like Salsa and Bachata dance classes or comedy nights as well as community service projects like fundraising for the recovery of Puerto Rico. Another great example is Alianza, an intercultural group at Columbia College (Columbia University's undergraduate school), which is dedicated to ensuring that underrepresented Latinx students have a space to express their beliefs and experiences with their fellow students.
Activist and community service organizations
Activism is more important than ever in our society today, and there are many ways to get involved in causes you’re passionate about. Hispanic-centered activist and service groups dedicate themselves to helping the Hispanic/Latinx community through service and leadership. One such group at the University of Central Florida is Destino UCF, which encourages students to become leaders that create a positive impact on their campus and in their communities that aligns with their religious faith. If you’re looking to help others, look for service groups like Destino UCF (religiously affiliated or not) on your school’s campus.
Pre-professional groups are dedicated to helping students in their pursuit of a lucrative and successful career—and Hispanic-centered pre-professional groups focus on making sure Hispanic students have access to as many opportunities as anyone else. For example, the Association of Latino Professionals for America boasts 160 student chapters nationwide. This organization helps Latinx students in the development of leadership, management, and other valuable professional skills to take to the working world upon graduation. If you’re a Hispanic student looking to be supported and championed in your professional development, then a group like this could be great for you!
Hispanic Greek life
Greek life provides students with the opportunity to connect with other students in a deeper way through the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood. Hispanic students on college campuses can be empowered and find a place to belong within the communities of Hispanic Greek life. For instance, the Pi Lambda Chi Latina Sorority was established in 1994 at the University of Colorado Boulder, the first sorority established at the University. Since its inception, 10 other chapters have been established on college campuses across the country. The organization dedicates itself to the “sisterhood, education, unity, and preservation of Latina culture” for all its sisters.
When in doubt, do it yourself
It can be frustrating to feel that your culture and heritage isn’t properly represented on your college campus—after all, it’s the presence of diverse students that makes for a well-rounded, open-minded, and supportive college experience. But you’re in luck! Many colleges offer the opportunity for students to start their own organizations on campus. If your school is lacking in Hispanic- and Latino-centered groups, reach out to your student activities office to see about starting a new club—who knows, you may even have the opportunity to charter a new branch of a nationwide organization like the Hispanic Alliance for Latino Enhancement, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Association for Chicano and Chicana Studies, and many more.
The value and importance of Hispanic clubs and organizations on college campuses cannot be understated—especially with today’s current social climate. Hispanic and Latino students bring a rich culture and history, passed on from their families, to college campuses all across the nation. And those cultures deserve to be celebrated and championed by Hispanic and non-Hispanic students alike.
Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month! Stay tuned for more content next week to round out the month. In the meantime, check out our College Diversity section for more blogs like this.