MSU Denver earns prestigious certification for support of Latino students
The University becomes the first higher-education institution in Colorado to earn the Seal of Excelencia.
Excelencia in Education, a research organization focused on the higher education of Latino students, has certified Metropolitan State University of Denver with the Seal of Excelencia for the University’s long record of serving this growing group of undergrads.
MSU Denver is one of just nine universities or colleges nationwide to become newly certified with the seal this year, and it’s the only institution of higher learning in Colorado to earn the seal, which is valid for three years before institutions must apply for recertification.
“There is a real difference between colleges and universities that enroll Latino students and those that intentionally serve them,” said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO of Excelencia in Education. “Those that earn the seal are trendsetters on a journey of transformation, showing what it takes to progressively increase positive outcomes for Latino, and all, students for others ready to meet the mission.”
MSU Denver in 2007 launched an ambitious effort to obtain federal recognition for educating Latino students, who at that time made up about 13% of the University’s undergraduate population. MSU Denver was designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution in 2019, and today more than 35% of its students are Latino.
And the work doesn’t stop here, said MSU Denver President Janine Davidson, Ph.D.
“Attaining the seal is only the beginning,” she said. “Beyond the certification, the seal serves as a partner to ensure we continue to sustain our commitment, that our policies and practices reflect our commitment and that academic and inclusive excellence are front and center not only for our Latinx students but for all of our students.”
The Seal of Excelencia, first awarded in 2018, is given after a rigorous process in which institutions must show they have met specified standards. The application is divided into three core components: data, evidence-based practices and leadership.
Data and evidence-based practices examine key areas such as enrollment, retention, transfer, financial support, representation and completion. The leadership component examines mission and strategy, data and practice, human resources, communication and institutional culture.
The path to becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution and earning the Seal of Excelencia
Members of the University’s Hispanic-Serving Institution Task Force and Executive Steering Committee, which includes faculty members, staff members and University leaders, contributed to a yearlong application process.
“It was important for the University to earn this certification because I’ve seen all of the work it’s taken for us to reach this point,” said Manuel Del Real, Ph.D., executive director for HSI and Inclusion at MSU Denver. “The certification serves to highlight all the great work we’re doing here at MSU Denver and the work that still needs to be done.”
MSU Denver’s HSI designation has opened up millions of dollars in grant opportunities. Since last fall, HSI and Minority Serving Institution grant funding to the University has more than doubled, from about $6.4 million to more than $14 million.
Because the grant-funded projects are related to student-support services, faculty development, transfer-pipeline development and distance-learning instruction, the HSI designation allows the University to better serve all students, regardless of ethnicity or background. For example, shortly after the Seal of Excelencia was awarded, MSU Denver was also named a Fulbright HSI Leader in recognition of the University’s efforts to make international opportunities accessible to its students, faculty and staff.
The seal is “recognition for doing the work that I see (the University) doing on the ground level every single day,” said Julianna Montoya, a first-generation student and senior studying Public Health. “I can’t help but want to thank every single person who’s supported me along the way.”