Forum discusses Diverse and Accessible Education for Hispanic and Latinx Students at SIU

By Amber Koteras, Staff Reporter

SIU’s multicultural resource center held the training session, “How to Better Serve Hispanic/Latinx Students in Higher Education” on Thursday.

The event was hosted by Cristina Castillo, a program coordinator on the First Scholars staff at SIU as well as the Hispanic/Latino resource center coordinator.

“It is important that as we seek best practices in supporting Latina/o students on our campuses, or in developing and implementing policies that may affect millions of students, that our perspective be conscious of the diversity among us and context-specific experiences,” Castillo said, quoting Desiree Zerquera of the University of San Francisco. 


The Hispanic population is the fastest growing minority in America, Castillo said. Statistics from Pew Research Center show that the population has grown by about 51 million people from 1970 to 2019. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Illinois has the sixth largest Latino population in the country.  Despite this, Castillo said, “We’re still lacking in education.”

The webinar presented statistics on the lesser experience that Hispanic/Latinx students tend to be presented with. Citing the National Center for Education Statistics, Hispanic students’ graduation rate was 14% lower than that of white students in four-year programs. This led into the discussion of a deficit model.

“The dominant thinking in higher education attempts to understand student difficulty by framing students and their families of origin as lacking some of the academic and cultural resources necessary to succeed in what is pursued to be a fair and open society,” Castillo said. 

With such thinking by higher education departments, a deficit model is established. This form of thinking focuses on the limits of Hispanic/Latinx students and gives educators the mindset that they should address these students as if there is always a problem. 

Castillo said this can alienate students rather than help them. 

“This deficit model doesn’t happen only to students, it applies as well to Latinx faculty,” Castillo said.


Castillo went on to explain that aspects of the culture can leave students less likely to advocate for themselves. Castillo talked about the expectations to be perfect so there is a chance that students won’t be seen as intrusive simply because they are Hispanic/Latinx. 

“Low income, undocumented, we’re all seen as intruding. We don’t have self-advocacy skills. We lack that sense of empowerment to go and ask for help,” Castillo said. The point was made that, because of this, it is important to remind students of their value, and to be a resource for them. 

The typical experience of students with Hispanic/Latinx cultures lacks opportunities that other students may receive. Castillo said students are underrepresented in AP classes, and overrepresented in special education programs. These students are also not encouraged to enter into four-year institutions to pursue degrees.

Castillo cited quotes from student experiences. “I’m from Little Village, a small neighborhood in Chicago, where […] a lot of us are told we can’t make it out of the ‘hood.’ I’m proof that, yes we can go above and beyond our limitations,” said a Hispanic student. 

Taking the experiences of these students, Castillo went on to talk about an empowerment theory. This empowerment theory leads back to the self-advocacy skills that students tend to lack.

“Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure,” Castillo quoted Albert Bandura, a psychologist known for his Social Cognitive Theory.

The last technique Castillo shared was that of appreciative advising. Castillo spoke about situations in which a student comes for advising, and how to deal with issues they may have. 

“This history month, this heritage month, and this presentation, really gives us the opportunity to look at what we are doing as educators and administrators,” Castillo said.

Staff reporter Amber Koteras can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @AmberKoteras

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