Prepárate 2024

Targeted Recruitment and Outreach for Latino Students: A Success Story from the University of Arkansas

At the 2024 Prepárate™: Educating Latinos for the Future of America conference, a team from the University of Arkansas (UA) shared their experience with targeted recruitment and outreach to the Latino community. The panelists included Sarah Draine, director of college access programs, Xochitl Delgado Solorzano, assistant dean and director of the Path Program, Rafael Arciga Garcia, assistant dean for admissions and orientation, Abigail Gonzalez-San Juan, Honors Path scholar, and Emily Compean, academic outreach specialist for College Access Initiatives.

The panel highlighted the significant growth of the Latino student population at UA, which has more than doubled in the last decade, making it the largest student group from underrepresented backgrounds on campus. This growth isn’t just a reflection of the increasing Latino population in Arkansas. It’s  also the result of targeted recruitment efforts.

History of Recruitment Initiatives 

The recruitment initiatives began in 2008 when UA started high school visits. Latino UA students took the initiative to build community and promote the university within their community. Despite an initial lack of university support, the UA students persisted, leading to the growth and impact of Latino students at the university. 

Building Trust and College Access Initiatives 

The UA staff have worked diligently to build and maintain trust with the Latino community across the state. They’ve taken steps to dispel myths about the university and have built coalitions across campus units to present resources and opportunities for student support. The panel presented strategies for building these partnerships and maintaining them through leadership transitions. 

Several College Access Initiatives were highlighted, such as ACT Academy, which includes ACT prep resources and college access resources like Jump Start, College Advising Corps, and near-peer mentorship. The university hosts Spanish-based events for prospective Latino students and their families. The clearest example of this is the Honors College Path Program, which was created in 2014. It supports high-achieving students from underrepresented backgrounds. 

The Latino population of the Honors College at UA is growing progressively, having increased from 6.98% in fall  2022 to 8% in spring 2024. The Path Program has played a large role in that growth. The program includes scholarship opportunities, early campus move-in for students, and regular meetings with program leaders. The application process requires students to come to campus for an interview. The program covers the cost of hotel stays for families and provides a Walmart gift card. 

In conversations with families, the university strives to ensure that both students and their families aren’t misled and are aware of the realities of campus life, particularly for minority students. “I believe honesty is the best policy,” said Sarah Draine. “We’re asking families to make the biggest purchase of their lives.” Her words underscored the university’s commitment to transparency regarding campus demographics and available resources. UA’s approach to Latino student recruitment is best described as proactive, supportive, and community-oriented.

Outreach and Support for Latino Students on Campus 

UA has implemented several initiatives to support Latino students. These include outreach to student organizations on campus, especially those that are Latino-based or Spanish-language representative, such as the Si Se Puede con UGC (United Greek Council) initiative.

The Multicultural Center (MC) makes a substantial effort to support Latino students. The MC offers a variety of programs and has received awards for its work. The MC also provides meeting spaces for student organizations and maintains a community listserv. 

Another important initiative is UA’s partnership with the local community college system, which allows transfer students to continue paying the community college rate. 

It’s clear that the University of Arkansas has made important strides in recruiting and supporting Latino students through targeted initiatives and programs. The success of these efforts is evident in the growing representation of the Latino student population on campus.