Excelencia: UCSC wins recognition for its Latinx work

Students walk on the UC Santa Cruz campus between classes.
Students walk on the UC Santa Cruz campus between classes.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Excelencia in Education recognizes campuses that excel in serving their Latinx student bodies. UC Santa Cruz becomes one of 30 campuses to win the award, a modern academic seal of approval.

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This week, UC Santa Cruz celebrates its winning of the Seal of Excelencia for the first time. The campus becomes part of a group of just 30 universities to have earned the prestigious award, which recognizes their success serving their Latinx students.

This year, UCSC is one of six institutions that earned the Seal of Excelencia for the first time. Nine other universities recertified their seal — which is valid for three years. In addition to UCSC, UC Riverside and UC Merced are the only other campuses in the UC system to earn the seal.

As a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) — a federal designation universities receive when enrollment of Hispanic students reaches 25% — UCSC has received federal grants for Hispanic and Latinx-serving initiatives and has a long history of Latinx-serving programs and organizations. UCSC’s student population was just over 25% Hispanic/Latinx in fall 2021, the most recent year for which there is data. Cabrillo College is also an HSI.

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“Receiving the seal is a great honor and validation of the focused work we began in 2015, when we launched our first HSI initiatives,” said Chancellor Cynthia Larive. “Our HSI leadership team, our Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning and so many faculty and staff across our campus have led us to this moment. I am thrilled for them and also for our students. The work we do in this arena helps us to fulfill our mission as an HSI, but it also helps us better serve all of our students.”

Excelencia in Education is a Washington-based nonprofit that partners with institutions to improve Latino student success. It established the seal certification program four years ago to recognize universities that both provide thoughtful support to Latinx students as well as consider areas for improvement.

Excelencia recognized UCSC for its success in demonstrating how Latinx student progress.

UCSC Director for HSI Initiatives Charis Herzon highlighted several programs affecting enrollment, retention and transfer students that the university included in its application:

  • One student-initiated program, ORALE, hosted by Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan (MEChA), offers a three-day outreach program on the UCSC Latinx experience for high school seniors who have been admitted to UCSC. Herzon said of the students who participate in their program, 60% enroll at UCSC.
  • Cultivamos Excelencia program, a partnership between UCSC and San Jose City College saw a 100% increase in transfer rates from 2016 to 2020. The program’s tools: its transfer advising and tutoring services.
  • The Learning Support Services tutoring program generates higher grades for participating students, aiding in retention. Of the more than 3,000 students served annually, 31% identify as Latinx.


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