Excelencia in Education is a national organization devoted to the advancement of Latino student success in higher education. In 2021, Excelencia in Education recognized UC Merced – among ten other institutions – for its commitment to intentionally serving Latinx students and for demonstrating positive student outcomes with the Seal of Excelencia. To earn this prestigious recognition, UC Merced highlighted the way in which it intentionally serves Latinx students in an array of categories, including enrollment, retention, transfer student services, financial support, and representation amongst faculty, staff, and administration. The application required both numerical data as well as narratives around specific strategies and select programs and practices.
“This recognition reflects the university’s efforts to assist in the recruitment and academic success of Latino students – indeed, of all our students. We thank Excelencia in Education for recognizing the diversity and inclusivity that exemplify UC Merced.”-Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz
Excelencia in Education highlighted the following two examples of intentionally serving Latinx students at UC Merced:
Pathway to admission
The pathway from admissions to Day 1 on-campus ensures students feel a connection with UC Merced and quickly understand the supportive network available to them. UC Merced implements a series of services to drive enrollment and persistence, focusing on both outreaches and post submitting their Statement of Intent to Register (SIR). From the Diversity Inclusive Webinar outreach series to New Student Orientation with a Spanish track, to showcasing Latino student leaders and their organizations, to the Bobcat Calling campaign that minimizes summer melt (and answers questions for first-generation, low-income students) -- the focus is on targeted, tailored, and frequent touchpoints. Student success is targeted through multichannel communication to parents and students, online events and individualized services. Since 2011, applications from Latinos have increased by 83%, and Latinos choose to enroll at a higher rate than all other ethnic groups. Currently, our Latino student enrollment deposits have increased to a total of 1,861 incoming Latino students for the fall of 2021. In 2021 alone, the Bobcat callers in the Bobcat Caller program made 14,983 calls to admitted students and their families. For fall 2020, ethnicity was significantly associated with overall melt. We found that Latino students were less likely to melt overall (19%) than Asian American students (27%). In 2018, rates were not significantly different by group, but by 2019, Latino students had significantly lower melt rates than Asian American students.
Holistic academic advising
The School of Social Science and Humanities (SSHA) is UC Merced’s largest school with about 3,662 students (64% identifying as Latino). SSHA has implemented a multi-pronged academic advising approach for undergraduate academic success consisting of 1) the Mid-Semester Grade Intervention (a SMART goal check-in for students who have 2 or more non-passing grades); 2) the Academic Difficulty Support Meetings to help students return to good academic standing by the end of the semester; and 3) the Jump Start Your 3rd Year where students receive second-year advising to understand which outstanding degree requirements to complete. The strong Latino representation in SSHA has also increased demand for Latino-specific sponsored events and projects, including the Bilingual Ricardo El Segundo (Spanish Shakespeare), Luce Grant projects to support oral history projects for Spanish-speaking communities, and UC Office of the President funded undergraduate research opportunities. SSHA’s comprehensive advising efforts have contributed to higher retention rates compared to university-wide retention rates. In 2019, SSHA had an 86% Latino second-year retention rate compared to the 85% Latino retention rate for the university overall. SSHA’s academic advising support coupled with other support services reveal a stable, steady incline in SSHA Latino retention to 2nd year over the past 5 years (from 82% in 2016 to 86% in 2019). The intentionality of this academic advising initiative is intertwined with SSHA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategic plan Goal 1a to increase the representation of underrepresented faculty and staff within the school.