Excitement grows for FHSU's inaugural HCI

hispanic college institute-2016

By Randy Gonzales
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- The day is drawing near for the inaugural Hispanic College Institute at Fort Hays State University, and organizers are busy dotting the last I's and crossing the last T's.

"We're all getting nervous because we want to make sure every single detail is covered so that when the students get here, they're going to say, 'Wow,' " said Dr. Joey Linn, vice-president for Student Affairs. "In a nutshell, we're excited, ready to go."

The HCI, which will bring together high school sophomores (class of 2018) and juniors (class of 2017) to the FHSU campus, is scheduled for June 22-25. The institute is a free, four-day residential program that prepares Hispanic students for success in higher education. Approximately 115 students will be part of the first HCI class. In addition, 22 current FHSU students will provide assistance throughout the week.

Brett Bruner, director of Transition and Student Conduct at FHSU, is in charge of coordinating the programming.

"It's really a jam-packed four days for the students," Bruner said. "The students will be going through various workshops. They will focus on topics like public speaking, social media, understanding foundations to succeed in college, how to apply to college and understanding the ACT process."

Students will also meet Hispanic leaders who have been successful, providing inspiration as well as networking opportunities. Participants will also break into small groups to discuss issues in the Hispanic and Latino communities and provide solutions.

On the first day, Dr. Mirta M. Martin, FHSU's first female and Hispanic president, will give opening remarks. Martin was born in Havana, Cuba, and immigrated to the United States. Dr. Sonia Esquivel will also address the students on Wednesday of that week. Esquivel, who received both a bachelor's and master's degree from Fort Hays State, will talk about her journey to get where she is today. Esquivel, born in Mexico, immigrated with her family to Garden City, in southwest Kansas, in the 1970s. She currently is a counselor and assistant professor at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Thursday session will include hearing from "Hispanic stars," people of Hispanic/Latino heritage who have become success stories.

"Our mission is to be a resource for these students and help them learn how to reach their goals," said Tricia Cline, director of admissions at FHSU. "Many of these students are first-generation students and have the dream to pursue higher education but don't know the steps to get there or in some instances, don't even believe a college education is possible."

On the Friday of that week, students will participate in a math and technology day. There will be a high-altitude balloon launch that morning. Then Joe Erdman, a Fort Hays State graduate who works for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, will speak. He is a systems engineer with NASA's Orion project -- an initiative for deep-space exploration. Steve Jacobs, chief scientist with Faraday Studios, Wichita, will also be involved with the students on that day. Through a live, interactive telecast, Jacobs' theme of science communication will include momentum and energy involving space flight.

"The key message we're going to get across to the kids is that whatever you do, communicating scientific ideas is at the heart of it," said Dr. Paul Adams, dean of the College of Education. "It's an interactive session."

The final day will feature a Saturday brunch, with parents invited to help celebrate the accomplishments of their students. By the end of the week, students will be shown the process of applying for and being accepted into a university -- and all that goes with it.

"From an institution perspective, we're trying to get as many students as we can information on the importance of higher education, the importance of continuing their education after their high school career," Linn said. "No matter what institution they may want to attend, we want to help them out so they fully understand the process."

Linn also hopes students will like what they see from their time on campus and consider enrolling at FHSU.

"They can find out for themselves that this is a great university that could potentially be a landing spot for them," he said.

Martin, at the urging of then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, created a state wide Hispanic College Institute when she worked in higher education in Virginia. With the Hispanic population growing in Kansas, Martin's goal was to do the same at FHSU. Martin doesn't want to stop with just this inaugural HCI.

"My goal and dream is that the HCI will be the template for many others," Martin said. "If you're a first-generation student, it doesn't matter whether you're purple, green or white. You're a first-generation student.

"There's no reason why we couldn't have an African-American College Institute," she added. "There's no reason we couldn't have a Farmers College Institute. They don't need to feel they are alone."

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