Salem State currently serves an over 20 percent Hispanic student population, and demographic trends indicate that it will grow to 25 percent within the next few years. Once this metric is met, Salem State will apply for the U.S. Department of Education’s Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) designation status and belong to a larger group of Multicultural Serving Institutions (MSI) that commit to addressing and serving the needs and expectations of all students, intentionally and systematically including Hispanic students in this effort.
As an emerging HSI and with encouragement from the president and provost offices and the support of unrestricted donations, Assistant Vice President for HSI-MSI Initiatives Elisa Castillo PhD and Assistant Professor of Sociology Miguel Montalva Barba PhD traveled to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Capitol Forum in Washington, D.C., this past April with four enthusiastic Salem State students in tow.
The Capitol Forum provides an opportunity to hear directly from government leaders about the Department of Education’s priorities and the importance of advocating for HSIs. First-year nursing students Annely GrullonRojas ’26 and Arianny GrullonRojas ’26 jumped at the opportunity. “It was inspirational to see so many Hispanic students coming together,” recalls Arianny.
“I wanted to go because I’m a minority and Hispanic, and I want to see more change and help people unite,” says Annely. Her twin sister echoes her sentiment, saying, “I’m passionate about medicine. You don’t really see a lot of minority doctors. I want to change that.”
Through funding to Salem State, students like Annely and Arianny are able to capitalize on transformational opportunities, getting a glimpse inside a rare space of Hispanic leaders working to advocate for minority students and institutions.
Elisa explains that this is just the beginning. “Bringing students to these conferences exposes them to hundreds of Latinx experts, connects them with job placements and internships and expands their horizons and potential. Providing our students opportunities to succeed and open new doors is crucial.”
For Annely and Arianny, the conference encouraged them to never be afraid to be an advocate or to follow your dreams. “Our voices are powerful. Stand up for what you believe in. And follow your dreams, even if it takes you years to get there. Always keep hope.”
Elisa sees a bright future with increased opportunity to expose more students to these experiences, noting that Salem State is leading the charge on HSI/MSI initiatives to address inequalities. “With additional support, these experiential opportunities will grow and students will fully realize the importance and impact of HSIs.”