The Ortiz Programs were named in honor of Martin Ortiz ‘48, one of the first Latinos to graduate from Whittier College and founding director of the former Center of Mexican American Affairs. These programs date back to 1968, when Dr. Ortiz was employed by Whittier to help increase its role in meeting the educational needs of Hispanic students and create a greater understanding of the socioeconomic, academic, and cultural characteristics of its Hispanic population. The main functions of the Center were to promote the recruitment and admission of Hispanic students, to work with the College’s Financial Aid Department in meeting the financial needs of students, to collaborate with the Alumni Relations Department in connection to “Alianza de los Amigos,” the Latino alumni association, and to serve as a resource for speakers, student organizations, and cultural events on campus.
The mission of the Ortiz Programs is to support Latino students in their academic pursuits and leadership development through workshops and programs offered in collaboration with other departments on campus. In addition, the Ortiz Programs sponsor annual events and co-curricular activities that seek to increase awareness and appreciation of Latino culture and history while creating a close-knit community among students, parents, alumni, faculty, and local organizations.
Latino students currently comprise 44.2% of the total student body at Whittier -- making it a Hispanic Serving Institution -- and constitute the largest minority group on campus. The percentage of Latino students has remained relatively consistent over the last 10 years because of the College’s clear commitment to their success. Since 1998, the first-year to sophomore retention rate for Latino students has averaged 80%, compared to 74% for White students. This trend results in an average graduation rate of 59% for Latino students, compared to 57% for White students. In addition, Whittier College is proud of its four-year graduation rates. The majority of students graduate in four years (with a 4% increase between the four- year graduation rate and the six-year graduation rate). This is especially important as the cost of attending a private college represents a significant sacrifice, particularly for the families of Latino students.
This program was recognized as an Honorable Mention for making innovative and/or significant improvement in increasing Latino student success.