California has the nation’s largest Hispanic population according to the Pew Research Center. Data from the California Census Bureau shows that Hispanic people make up 34 percent of the community in Orange County alone.
Cal State Fullerton has a campus that effectively reflects its surrounding communities by showing a significant growth in the Latina/o student population.
According to data from CSUF’s Institutional Research and Analytical Studies, the number of degrees awarded to Latina/o students has steadily increased since the 2004-05 academic year.
In 2005, CSUF awarded 1,380 degrees to Latino students. By 2013, that number had nearly doubled, and in the 2014-15 academic year, Latinos became the highest graduating ethnic group at CSUF.
As a result of Hispanic students making up the majority of CSUF’s population, the campus has seen an expansion in Chicana/o clubs, groups and programs on campus.
The Chicana & Chicano Resource Center searches for and provides students with events and programs that are inclusive of the history, education and culture of Latina/o students.
Jacqueline Castañeda, the community success lead at the Chicana/o Resource Center, connects students to on and off-campus resources by helping coordinate informational seminars and workshops for them.
Castañeda said that the events put on by the resource center usually draw a big turnout and give students the opportunity to get to know each other.
“I meet different people here all the time, and sometimes you don’t even need to see their faces often to remember who they are,” Castañeda said. “A lot of students that hang out here are involved in other student organizations as well, so that’s kind of how they meet too.”
Other Hispanic groups on campus have also been growing similarly to the Chicana/o Resource Center.
Hermanos Unidos is a nonprofit organization that focuses on university student retention and increasing the graduation rates of Latino men in higher education.
Anthony Vasquez, one of the co-chairs of Hermanos Unidos de CSUF, said the organization is structured on three fundamental pillars: Academics, community service and social networking.
“We believe in giving back to our community … And motivating the younger folks to do well in school and participate in different services,” Vasquez said.
Established in 2013, Hermanos Unidos de CSUF has 15 “familias,” or official college organizations, across California, Vasquez said. There have been “significant growths” in the CSUF branch of the organization over the last few years.
“We constantly have new members join. Last year we had a huge wave of new members coming in, and just being in the space since my freshman year, I’ve seen an increase,” Vasquez said. “It makes us proud to have a lot of graduating upperclassmen too; It’s like we’re getting new members while also achieving our mission.”
CSUF has also seen changes in representation. The university hosts events on campus that represent Hispanic culture, like the social gathering on Oct. 30 that celebrated Dia De Los Muertos, or the event on Dec. 9 that will celebrate the Latin American Christmas tradition of Las Posadas.
Since the appointment of Mildred García, a Hispanic woman, as the president of the university in 2012, CSUF has become the No. 1 school in California (and second in the nation) in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Hispanic students. The university is also sixth in the nation in graduating students of color.
Chicana/o studies lecturer Ana Nez, Ph.D., said she believes CSUF’s diverse student population is not only important, but also makes the campus unique. Having taught at other campuses including University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Dine College and UC Santa Barbara, Nez said that the university’s level of diversity is unmatched.
“The experience here in terms of student population and diversity and representation of the Chicano/Latino population is exceptional,” Nez said. “I’ve never seen this kind of representation, and it’s great.”