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Being an Ally to Community Colleges

Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Latinx/a/o
September 6, 2018 Juan Carlos Matos Fordham University

The work I have done as an educator and administrator in student affairs has been mostly connected to diversity, inclusion, and equity. In addition to that, my educational experiences have all been at private and religious affiliated institutions. Where these experiences intersect is how I found my way towards advocating for the increase in understanding of Latinx/a/o students in community colleges. In particular, identifying ways practitioners from private, four-year institutions can support and act as gatekeepers for this population at their own institutions.

Initially, I simply attended a Latinx/a/o Knowledge Community (LKC) general meeting during a NASPA Annual Conference. Then I joined the Region II leadership team in 2013 and in October of 2015, I attended the Escaleras Institute. There I had the opportunity to hear David Gomez, president of Hostos Community College, speak on a panel. After the presentation, I set up a follow-up interview with him. We discussed his journey to the presidency alongside ways Fordham University could better partner with Hostos Community College. One area that stood out from that conversation was the suggestion of articulation agreements. This would require working collaboratively to identify and create specific policies for transfer credits, course equivalencies, and alignment for continued degree completion. This would mirror the work of Perez and McDonough (2008) of creating pathways, as described by Martinez and Hernández (2018) in the book Latinx/a/os in Higher Education. Martinez and Hernández (2018) discussed the partnerships of community colleges with high schools for things like dual credit courses to earn college credits which can in turn assist with the cost of college. In addition, Martinez and Hernández (2018) also discussed the importance of balancing increasing enrollment with policies and practices to support Latinx/a/o students. Creating an intentional articulation agreement must truly benefit and support Latinx/a/o students who transfer to four-year institutions. While articulation agreements would be great partnerships, a predominantly white institution should also provide policies and practices to support Latinx/a/o students who transfer. After further reflection, this type of collaboration was not something I had enough authority to accomplish in my role at the time. With that in mind, I identified other ways to use my leadership to increase education around the experiences of Latinx/a/os community college students and to modify programming at my university be more inclusive of community college students.

In order to actualize my allyship to community college populations, I leveraged my leadership roles in the LKC. In 2016, I sat on a mid-level administrator panel and then was tapped to co-chair the 2017 and 2018 pre-conferences. I began to realize, not only was the LKC comprised of folks who supported Latinx/a/o students in community colleges, many individuals were also alumni of community colleges working at public and private four year institutions. My co-chair and I decided it would be important to dedicate some time in the 2018 NASPA Annual Conference pre-conference workshop to highlight community colleges. In Five Things Student Affairs Professionals Can Do to Support Latinx/a/o Students in Community Colleges, Hernández, Hernández, and de la Teja (2017) discussed the importance of utilizing various ACPA and NASPA professional competency areas in order to serve Latinx/a/o community college students and be more culturally responsive to them. These competency areas included: social justice and inclusion, human resources, and leadership. The pre-conference provided the opportunity to increase what practitioners from various institution types knew about the Latinx/a/o college experience and to discuss how it could relate to their work in creating positive transformational change.

In 2017, there were three panels that covered a variety of topics at the NASPA LKC pre-conference and there was at least one person on each panel that worked at a community college. During the 2018 pre-conference planning, President Gomez was secured as the keynote speaker, which ensured the conversation of Latinx/a/o students in community colleges. This was an excellent way to provide a learning experience for all administrators, but especially for those who do not work at community colleges. These conversations aligned with work at my own institution as we began to envision ways to include community colleges in our programming efforts.

I oversee the Office of Multicultural Affairs and one of our largest collaborative efforts is with the Office of Career Services. Every spring we host a Global Leadership conference that bring students together with employers to discuss diversity and inclusion in the world of work. Increased community engagement is part of Fordham’s University strategic goals, so identifying ways to connect with residents of the Bronx was a departmental priority. The decision to expand the conference beyond Fordham students aligns with the fourth strategy suggested by Hernández et al. (2017), “Scale up Programs and Services.” There was an intentional decision to increase the number of Latinx/a/o students who participated in the conference, to build partnerships with Bronx community colleges. These two experiences shaped how I could concretely be an ally to those attending and working at community colleges.

Advice for administrators looking to support Latinx/a/o students at community colleges who do not work at community colleges is twofold. The first method is through leveraging a leadership role in a NASPA knowledge community. Utilizing the platform of knowledge community involvement is an excellent way to highlight and collaborate around conversations, presentations, and programs focused on Latinx/a/o students in community colleges. This is reinforced through Hernández et al. (2017) as they discussed Latinx/a/o students living intersectional lives. Similarly to how this student population can navigate life as being Latinx/a/o, Queer, living with a disability, or being undocumented, the work of the knowledge communities that are having conversation about Latinx/a/o/ student can not only happen within the LKC. Bringing these experiences into the work of other knowledge communities and building partnerships is critical. The second method is identifying programming at your home institution that can include students and staff from community colleges as participants. These two strategies are effective ways to be allies to Latinx/a/o students and to community colleges in general.

Juan Carlos Matos

Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs for Diversity and Inclusion

Fordham University


Hernández, I., Hernández, S., & de la Teja, M. H. (2017). Five things student affairs professionals can do to support Latinx/a/o students in community colleges. Retrieved from https://www.naspa.org{filedir_3}5Things_LATINX_DOWNLOAD.pdf

Martinez, E. F., & Hernández, I. (2018). Latinx/a/o students and community colleges. In Batista, A. E., Collado. S. M., & Perez II, D. (Eds.), Latinx/a/os in Higher Education: Exploring Identity, Pathways, and Success (pp. 137-156). Washington, DC: NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in higher Education.

Perez, P. A., & McDonough, P. M. (2008). Understanding Latina and Latino college choice: A social capital and chain migration analysis. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 7(3), 249-265.