Background

The grant supports four core components, each of which was carefully designed based on evidence from previous studies and from an assessment of HSU’s challenges to meet the needs of a diversifying incoming study body.

Student Demographics

HSU became eligible to apply for the grant because enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students is at least 25% Hispanic, Latina/o, or Chicana/o.  In fact, student demographics at HSU have been changing abruptly in the last few years.  Since 2010, enrollment of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM majors has increased by over 75%, with a 98% increase in Hispanic students

Together, 67% of HSU freshmen choosing STEM disciplines are from an underrepresented minority ethnicity, and/or from a low-income family, and/or the first in their family to attend college (first-generation college student).  Likewise, 61% of incoming transfer students correspond to one or more these groups. These students are the new majority and reflect the future workforce and graduate students in STEM disciplines.

Humboldt State's Challenges

This grant’s work is rooted in evidence from the literature and from our own campus that identify five reasons HSU has previously struggled to meet the needs of a diversifying incoming study body.

  • Previous campus efforts have been insufficient for many Hispanic and low-income students to develop the self-efficacy, academic behavior habits, and sense of belonging necessary for success.
  • Status quo support services to address student success have not integrated with the curriculum, and they have not reliably reached all the Hispanic and low-income STEM students that need them.
  • Gateway courses have had low success rates, especially for Hispanic and low-income students.
  • Previous math remediation curriculum had low success rates, and students requiring remediation graduate at significantly lower rates than other students.
  • Inadequate outreach, counseling, and articulation with two-year HSIs has limited the number of Hispanic and low-income students transferring to HSU in STEM disciplines and did not ensure students complete foundational courses before transferring.

Unique Academics and Location

The four components also recognize HSU’s unique setting and circumstances. As a result, our approach to transforming the campus to a legitimate Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) must also be unique – recognizing our strengths, weaknesses, and taking advantage of unique opportunities. 

HSU’s blend of disciplines is atypical, and HSU’s student enrollment in STEM disciplines is much higher than average for the CSU system.  The College of Natural Resources and Sciences receives over twice as many first-time freshmen as the other colleges.  Biology is the single largest major on campus, and environmental majors have seen rapid increases in enrollment.  HSU remains the only California State University (CSU) campus to offer undergraduate degrees in Fisheries Biology and Wildlife Management, and it is one of the few to offer degrees in Forestry. 

HSU’s setting is also unique.  Located in the small town of Arcata in Humboldt County, it is one of  23 CSU campuses, and is one of the most northerly HSIs on the West Coast. It is the most geographically isolated of all 23 CSU campuses.  The surrounding area is more rural than many other four-year institutions in California, and its spectacular natural setting of a coastal forest is a signature of Humboldt. 

Humboldt County’s population is predominately non-Hispanic White (~75%), contrasting with much more diverse state-wide demographic figures. HSU’s incoming student classes more closely resemble the state-wide profile than local demographics with the largest groups of students coming from urban centers in Southern California (40%, 700-800 miles away) and the San Francisco Bay Area (13%, 300-400 miles away), areas much different than Humboldt County.

The grant’s four core components will address these causes, thereby effecting change and achieving key outcomes.

In addition

Testimonies from students have identified experiences of bias that involve race/ethnicity while enrolled at HSU.  The Bias Education Initiative has also taken multiple reports over the last three years indicating hostilities and micro aggressions that Hispanics experience in the STEM fields, and the larger campus community, and in the community of Arcata.  Work to directly address these important issues now being addressed with Bias Education/Bystander Prevention program [link when available], and the HSI STEM grant will be working closely with the team of students, faculty, and staff in this effort.

Students join Latino Outdoors for community forest hike