Seal of Excelencia

2019 Seal of Excelencia

The Seal of Excelencia will be the beacon to identify colleges and universities that support Latino students.

Jacki Cisneros, President, The Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros Foundation


Return to Seal of Excelencia Main Page



2019 Institutions Earning the Certification

Seal of Excelencia certification 2019 recipients


Excelencia in Education recognized these colleges and universities for intentionally SERVING Latino students and for demonstrating positive student outcomes. These nine institutions enrolled and graduated about 5% of all Latino students in the country and directly contributed to helping meet our national degree completion goals.

Hear from leaders supporting the Seal of Excelencia

Read about leadership to SERVE Latino students in the time of uncertainty and beyond


Arizona State University • Austin Community College • California State University Channel Islands
El Paso Community College • Florida International University • Grand Valley State University
South Texas CollegeUniversity of ArizonaUniversity of Texas at El Paso


Arizona State University (ASU) - AZ

ASU, a public research university with campuses across Arizona, serves over 100,000 undergraduates and postgraduates—including a growing number of Latinos.

In receiving the Seal of Excelencia, ASU President Michael Crow emphasized the importance of Latino students to the university’s mission noting, “One quarter of our first-year class are Latinx students and thousands of degrees are being earned by Latinx graduates, all of whom meaningfully enrich our ASU community through their personal drives, valuable perspectives, experiential insights, and their dedication to giving back to the community, both now and in the future.”

Two Examples of SERVING: An Inclusive Institution through support systems and partnership

ASU was recognized in part for its programs that seek to improve retention among undergraduates, including the choice to make support systems more readily available by housing students of similar majors in the same communities. Additionally, the university offers self-study on the state of the transfer process at ASU—a study that resulted in an action plan that will provide more support to help transfers succeed once they arrive.

ASU has efforts to improve college readiness with its American Dream Academy (ADA)—a program that has graduated more than 40,000 parents and students across Arizona. As ASU’s Vice President of Outreach Partnerships Edmundo Hidalgo noted, the ADA shows families “the pathway for college access and success. It’s a program that has shown the earlier we engage with families and students… the more likely that they will come to postsecondary education.”


Click here to view the ASU institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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Austin Community College (ACC) - TX

ACC serves over 100,000 students in Austin and its surrounding communities.

In receiving the Seal of Excelencia, ACC’s President and CEO, Richard Rhodes, noted how the College has made serving Latino students a central focus: “The success of our Latino students is imperative to the college and our community as a whole. It takes a concerted effort from the top down to better understand students' needs. Together, we have developed innovative learning strategies, personalized support systems, and wraparound services that empower our Latino students.”

Two Examples of SERVING: Serving the Whole Community through advising and course design

ACC has a close partnership with high schools struggling with the lowest high school to college transition rates. In these traditionally underserved schools, ACC’s recruitment teams host college-going events and intentionally support students as they move through the application process. But ACC’s work doesn’t end with applicants. The college has worked to improve retention as part of its Strategic Plan. ACC has increased advising efforts for historically underserved students, finding that Hispanic students with more than one advising session saw a 12-percentage point impact lift. ACC’s intentional efforts have paid off—in the last few years, Hispanic retention rate has increased by 4 percentage points.

Retention is critical, but so is student performance—and ACC’s Student Success Course teaches inexperienced students study skills, time management, and career exploration. As a result of the Student Success Course, Latinx students had significantly higher Fall-to-Spring persistence rates than those not enrolled in the course.


Click here to view the ACC institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) - CA

CSUCI, a campus of the California State University system, serves over 7,000 students, half of whom identify as Hispanic or Latino.

In receiving the Seal of Excelencia, CSUCI highlighted the advantages of intentionally serving the historically underserved Latino community, noting, “We have benefitted greatly from the diverse perspectives of our Latino students and their communities in ways that enrich the academic culture for all students. We have shifted our teaching and learning landscape to one that is deeply committed to being culturally responsive and to realizing a collective vision for equity and inclusion that extends to every corner of our university.”

Two Examples of SERVING: A Roadmap for Success through Transfer and Advising

CSUCI stood out in part for its forward-thinking approach to the transfer experience. With nearly 51% of its undergraduate population comprised of transfer students, CSUCI has developed a regional strategy for increasing Latino student transfer while supporting their success. Their secret? Shared responsibility. They recognize that for transfer students, a degree doesn’t always happen in four years, and many transfers earn credits at two or three community colleges. CSUCI partnerships with local community colleges help align practices, policies, and curriculum in a regional system that recognizes the contributions of both the two-year and four-year systems to a college degree.

Additionally, CSUCI has invested in advisory programs that work to ensure the success of Latino students. Peer mentors have helped reduce the percentage of Latino students not in good standing to just 9%, a decline of three percentage points. At the same time, advisory programs work with students to build degree roadmaps for students, helping them develop their skills with core classes and check off all prerequisites so they achieve their degrees in a timely manner. Taken together, CSUCI’s intentional commitment to serving Latinos has helped raise two-year graduation rates for Latino transfer students.


Click here to view the CSUCI institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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El Paso Community College (EPCC) - TX

EPCC serves nearly 30,000 students across five campuses in the El Paso region, with a majority of students identifying as Hispanic.

In receiving the Seal of Excelencia, EPCC President William Serrata noted the pride the college takes in both enrolling Latinos as well as ensuring they succeed by calling attention 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.”

Two Examples of SERVING: Bringing Culture to the Classroom through access and community

As part of the El Paso Collaborative, EPCC’s Operation College Bound program offers critical access to a historically underserved community by gathering college applications, financial aid, and registration resources together for graduating seniors across 23 El Paso high schools. It’s just one indication of EPCC’s intentional commitment to increasing Latino enrollment.

But EPCC understands that Latino enrollment isn’t enough. Their innovative Pasos Program brings culturally responsive teaching strategies into the classroom, training faculty to connect and engage with Latino students to ensure they have the same opportunity to succeed. Critically, the EPCC Faculty Data and Research Team use data to evaluate EPCC initiatives, make improvements, and develop additional programs to ensure student success.


Click here to view the EPCC institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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Florida International University (FIU) - FL

FIU serves over 50,000 students across two campuses in Miami-Dade County, with a majority of students identifying as Hispanic.

In receiving the Seal of Excelencia, FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg noted the benefits of being one of the largest Hispanic-serving universities in the country, saying “It is a part of our DNA, what gives us an edge, and sets us apart. This designation demonstrates our longstanding commitment to build models for success in graduating and retaining students as an urban minority-serving institution.”

Two Examples of SERVING: A Commitment to Success through gateway and transfer

Often, gateway courses can be hurdles to underrepresented students, and can contribute to lower retention rates. But FIU tackled this problem by redesigning these critical courses, making them more accessible for all students. Now, Latino students are far more likely to pass foundational courses like Algebra and continue in their education.

A highlight of FIU’s efforts is their expanded access for transfer students. Their Connect4Success program is a guided transfer pathway that guarantees admission to FIU for all top performers in Florida’s network of community and state colleges. Connect4Success provides a timeline and advisor resources to encourage full-time enrollment. To Latinos and other historically underserved students, this kind of intentional service from FIU can be the difference between dropping out and degree attainment.


Click here to view the FIU institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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Grand Valley State University - MI

GVSU is a public liberal arts university that serves nearly 25,000 students in Allendale, Michigan, with an additional campus in Grand Rapids.

In receiving the Seal of Excelencia, GVSU noted the benefits of a diverse university, saying, “Our campus is richer because of Latino students and the experiences they bring.” Leadership also noted GVSU’s intentional steps that have “created a climate that is conduce to Latino students’ academic, social, and cultural success while continuing to increase retention and persistence towards graduation for Latino students.”

Two Examples of SERVING: Creating a Climate for Diversity through initiative and inclusion

Unlike some of our Seal recipients that are majority-Latino, GVSU’s Latino population makes up less than 10% of its student body. It’s a fact that makes their Latino student initiative so important. Launched in 2012, this data-driven student initiative is a university-wide effort to improve the recruitment and retention of Latinos. As a result, Latino enrollment, transfer, and completion rates have all increased.

GVSU has also committed itself to diversifying its faculty and administration, requiring an Inclusion Advocate in any university search committee. These advocates are intensively trained on inclusive talent, acquisition, selection, and the impact of bias on the hiring process. It’s a focus on inclusion that has become a part of GVSU’s culture. In the last few years, the student government has instituted annual inclusivity trainings, while the faculty senate formed a standing committee to give faculty of color a greater voice in academic governance.


Click here to view the GVSU institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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South Texas College (STC) - TX

STC serves 32,000 students in the Rio Grande Valley.

In receiving the Seal of Excelencia, STC noted how the college “has benefitted from serving our Hispanic communities in boundless ways,” adding that STC has grown into a catalyst for economic prosperity in the region with the help of Hispanic students “who have excelled despite adversities.” STC’s commitment to intentionally serving Latino students is a key part of that story.

Two Examples of SERVING: Access, Success, & Equity through advising & cultural competency

One of the keys to STC’s success in improving Latino retention was the implementation of Mandatory Advisement for First-Time-in-College students. This program ensures that students meet with an advisor as they register for classes, emerging with an Individualized Educational Plan that prepares them for the road ahead. Additionally, STC increases retention by taking advantage of class time to ensure students are registering for classes in the following semester.

Beyond this, STC has created an environment of cultural competency. Under the concept of familismo, the college creates supportive environments by building culturally relevant spaces for Latino students. But they also understand the needs of their Latino students that goes beyond culture. Their advisors don’t merely register Latino students for the right classes—they help them plan a schedule that will save students money, gas, meals, and time. It’s this full understanding of the needs of an underserved community that gives Latino students at STC an equal chance to succeed.


Click here to view the STC institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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University of Arizona (UA) - AZ

UA is a public research university that serves over 40,000 students in Tucson, Arizona.

In receiving the Seal of Excelencia, Assistant Vice Provost Marla Franco noted, “Serving Latino students is central to advancing our mission as Arizona’s land-grant university.” Franco stressed that UA is “not only committed to enrolling Latino students, but also to providing them with educationally enhancing and welcoming environments that support their degree attainment and prepare them for lives of purpose and passion after they graduate.”

Two Examples of SERVING: Serving Unique Needs through outreach and campus culture

UA’s work in recruiting Latino students begins with an intentional focus on finding Latino applicants in high schools, community colleges, and adults who are looking to return to school. But it doesn’t end there. UA’s College Academy for Parents (CAP) goes a step further, reaching out to Latino families with a college prep program designed to give parents the tools to help their children succeed in the admissions process and in their education.

On campus, the Guerrero Center helps build a culture where Latino students can feel comfortable, offering a first-year success course that gives Latino students the skills and information they need to thrive in college. The program serves as a place for Latino students to share their experiences, build on their strengths, and take ownership of their own education.


Click here to view the UA institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) - TX

UTEP, a public research university in El Paso, Texas, serves over 25,000 students and is the second-largest university in the United States to have a majority Latino student population.

In receiving the Seal of Excelencia, UTEP noted, “The University of Texas at El Paso’s greatest success has been our capacity to achieve both access and excellence for a majority Hispanic student population with an unusually broad range of socioeconomic backgrounds.” Critically, UTEP stressed the University’s success in “figuring out how to create opportunities for economically disadvantaged students that both support their needs and provide them with a level of quality that will ensure that when they graduate, they are able to compete with their peers anywhere.”

Two Examples of SERVING: A Commitment to Success through community and data-informed practice

A significant highlight of UTEP’s efforts is their El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence. Looking beyond their campus, UTEP has built partnerships with El Paso Community College, local high school districts, and business leaders across El Paso County. For nearly three decades, the Collaborative has worked to improve the educational prospects of El Paso’s students, including enrollment at UTEP.

Of the 3,300 undergraduates who graduated from this majority-Latino university in 2017-2018, 81% completed their baccalaureate degrees with six years, while half completed them within four. This success isn’t an accident. UTEP understands that students have their own educational journeys that are often interrupted or threatened by family, financial, or health challenges. That’s why they focus on data practical offerings, like clear transfer plans, to help students finish their degrees. At UTEP, they are committed to reviewing programs and using data to ensure their students have the best chance to succeed.


Click here to view the UTEP institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.