Thursday afternoon, officials with the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and El Paso Community College (EPCC) announced that each institution was honored by Washington, D.C.-based Excelencia in Education, with the inaugural ‘Seal of Excelencia.’
UTEP and EPCC were two of nine institutions of higher education to earn that certification based on their high level of commitment to serve Latino students.
“We are very pleased to be recognized by Excelencia in Education with the inaugural Seal of Excelencia,” UTEP President Diana Natalicio said. “The University of Texas at El Paso’s greatest achievement has been to demonstrate success in delivering both access and educational excellence to a predominantly Hispanic student population from a broad range of backgrounds and limited financial means….the Seal of Excelencia validates not only the success of our work, but the growing national recognition of the model we’ve developed.”
The Seal is a prestigious, voluntary, and comprehensive certification recognizing an institution’s commitment and ability to successfully serve Latino students.
“El Paso Community College (EPCC) has a laser-focus on student success. We are proud of our efforts to both increase the number of Latino students enrolling in college but also to increase the number of Latino students completing their degrees, many of whom are the first in their family to graduate from college,” EPCC President Dr. William Serrata said. “Receiving the Seal of Excelencia is an honor that is testament to EPCC’s commitment to advancing student achievement and ultimately serving the country by helping this fastest growing population, also underrepresented in higher education, receive the degrees and certificates that they need to be successful in our community, our state, and in this nation.”
“Serving Latino students is central to all that we do as a regional research university,” said Gary Edens, Ed.D., UTEP’s vice president for student affairs. “But even before they step on campus, we have to recognize and address the issues that have the potential to derail our students’ educational careers.”
Edens said the creation of the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, a group of academic, business and civic partners that includes UTEP, EPCC, Region 19 Education Service Center, the region’s biggest school districts, and local civic and business organizations, has had a major impact on how UTEP’s Latino students are served.
“Working together and building a sense of trust in the community has really helped us better understand the students we serve,” Edens said. “When we have that understanding, we are able to implement programs that truly support them as they continue their education through the University.”
The seal is part of Excelencia in Education’s strategy to close the education equity gap, accelerate the number of Latino students who attain college degrees by 2030, and ensure America’s future through the promotion of more high-quality educational opportunities.
“At Excelencia, we know that institutions and communities that intentionally measure their postsecondary Latino student success and use evidence-based practices both serve these students well and serve as catalysts for substantive, positive change in public policy,” said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education.
“Through the seal certification process, we provide a platform for colleges and universities to reflect on their current impact, practices and policies, and implement new and better ones that respond to Latino students’ realities. Ultimately this serves all students.”
To earn the seal, institutions needed to demonstrate significant strides in three key areas that Excelencia identified as critical to support Latino student success: data, practice and leadership.
“Having a higher education is vital to succeed in today’s global economy,” said Deborah Santiago, Excelencia in Education’s CEO. “If institutions aren’t effectively serving our Latino students, we lose a vital source of talent for our workforce and civic leadership. Institutions that strive for and most particularly those that earn the seal have demonstrated their capacity to grow our country’s highly skilled workforce and develop leaders – in other words, these institutions are ensuring America’s future.”
Excelencia in Education also recognized Arizona State University, California State University Channel Islands, Florida International University, Grand Valley State University (Michigan), the University of Arizona and two other Texas institutions: Austin Community College and South Texas College in McAllen.
The organization acknowledged the schools during a ceremony Thursday, June 20, 2019, in the nation’s capital.