Diversity & Inclusion

Office of University Diversity and Inclusion

HSI Mini Grant Awardees

Adelante HSI Symposium Cal Poly

Cal Poly strives to be a university that enhances student success by creating a culturally rich environment of diversity and inclusion, academic excellence, and social responsibility. To further our mission of becoming an Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) that thinks critically and holistically about serving the Latine/x community, The Office of University Diversity and Inclusion (OUDI) announced the inaugural Cal Poly HSI High Impact Mini-Grant program at the Adelante HSI Symposium in October, 2023. 

We are excited to announce that we received 39 grant applications totalling 130,000 in funding requests. Of the total number of applicants, we selected 16 projects to be funded through our inaugural program. Please learn more about these impactful projects in the list below. 

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Admissions and Recruitment

Project Leads: Mandy Blackburn & Dimitrous Chattman

The primary goal of the Mustang Mentorship Program (MMP) is to support underrepresented high school senior students (majority of whom identify as Latinx) from targeted partner high schools in their academic and personal development over senior year through peer-to-peer mentorship and engagement. Mentee high school students are matched with current Cal Poly student volunteer mentors and receive guidance and support from the Admissions Office throughout the year with a resource guide, application support, major and career exploration, and virtual workshops focused on educational resources and social engagement. Cal Poly mentors receive training and guidance to help support their mentees in exploring higher education options, preparing for college applications, and building authentic relationships and a sense of community. The majority of mentee participants are partner high school senior students from underrepresented backgrounds. The goal of this grant proposal application is to provide additional funding support to help increase retention for current mentor and mentee matches, and to help increase yield rates of accepted mentees for the Fall 2024 application cycle.


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Campus Health & Wellbeing

Project Lead: Alexis Becerra

As Cal Poly continues to move closer toward becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution, Campus Health and Wellbeing’s health education initiatives and outreach continue to adapt to meet the needs of our dynamic and diverse student body. Despite decreasing stigma toward accessing mental health support nationwide, Latinx students are underrepresented among Counseling Services visitors. Campus Health and Wellbeing Promotores report mental health is the most requested topic by Latinx student organizations for the Fall 2023 quarter. Further, growing research indicates Latinx students experience anxiety at the highest rates among all college-age students.

To work toward addressing such inequities and to support cultural and community engagement, Campus Health and Wellbeing will implement a peer-led Latinx Mental Health Dialogue Series. These events will be modeled after the successful PULSE Mental Health Dialogue Groups. Latinx dialogue sessions will be led by a trained student in Latinx-centered spaces, such as cultural student clubs. Sessions will be designed to provide a space for candid conversations around mental health concerns and challenges to seeking support in Latinx/Hispanic communities. The overarching goal among the dialogue sessions will be to connect Latinx students with mental health resources and support from peers in a welcoming and inclusive way.


Puente @ Cal Poly

Puente @ Cal Poly

Project leads: Denis Gonzales-Reyes & Roberto Ruiz

The Puente Project is a state-funded program found in both California high schools and community colleges as an educational support program. Puente translates from Spanish to bridge since it bridges to success for first gen students. Advancing the lineage of Puente Project to former Puente, AVID, and transfer students, we are Puente @ Cal Poly and provide an empowering community. Having a sense of belonging, a home and family at CP for new students is crucial since Puente helped students succeed throughout their high school or community college journey and we believe it is our responsibility and important to strengthen that mission. Our purpose is to continue that bridge of success, establish an inclusive community that Puente students and other students feel connected through leadership, community service opportunities, continuing to host campus tours for Puentistas who are thinking about applying to CP, develop or create relationships with high schools and community colleges to provide tours and panels, host guest speakers, and expand mentorship. By funding Puente @ Cal Poly, we provide a vehicle to celebrate and bring advancement to Latinx culture. Puente is a family, open to anyone who wants to succeed, but especially those who want to see others succeed!


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English Department

Project Lead: Dr. Jason Peters 

Research and Innovation: This project aims to assess what, if any, anti-racist pedagogical approaches are present within Cal Poly's First-Year Composition Program and identify any potential inclusivity gaps. By gathering insights from both instructors and students, the research will inform possible pedagogical enhancements and improve culturally relevant curricula, benefiting historically marginalized communities within the program, including Latinx/e students. This effort supports the creation of an inclusive campus environment that recognizes and values the diverse cultural backgrounds of Cal Poly's students.

The project seeks to contribute to the broader academic discourse on anti-racist pedagogy and critical language awareness in composition programs. The data collected will be used for conference presentations and published work, promoting discussions about systemic inequalities in the classroom which not only empowers Latinx/e students to address issues affecting their community, but encourages them to stand for change as well. The research will employ three methods: surveys, focus groups/interviews, and classroom observations. For the purpose of this project, the researchers will be grounding their discussion surrounding anti-racist pedagogical approaches through the following definition: anti-racist pedagogy, a form of Disruptive Teaching, critically examines the role of education in disrupting white supremacy (University of Michigan, Inclusive Teaching: Practicing Anti-Racist Pedagogy).


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CAFES, ASCI Department, DSCI Program

Project Leads: Dr. David Vagnoni & Victor Lopes

Dairy Challenge: Building a Bridge from Hispanic Serving Junior Colleges to Cal Poly

The Cal Poly Dairy Science (DSCI) Dairy Challenge team has finished first nationally in 4 of the last 5 intercollegiate contests (https://www.dairychallenge.org/). This level of performance is unmatched by any other DSCI program in the nation and is evidence of the outstanding quality of our program. Further, our DSCI graduates are highly sought after in the dairy industry and hold numerous positions of leadership within California and beyond.

However, we have both a need and an opportunity to increase the enrollment and participation of Latinx/e students in our program. Thus, we are proposing an Educational Initiative to include 8 students from Modesto Junior College (along with 1 advisor) in a mini Dairy Challenge program at Cal Poly. This will consist of: 1) joining the Cal Poly Dairy Challenge program in evaluating a commercial California dairy farm, 2) travelling to San Luis Obispo to evaluate the Cal Poly Dairy, 3) interacting with the Cal Poly DSCI students participating in this program, and 4) personal interaction with Cal Poly faculty and advisors to encourage and prepare these MJC students to successfully matriculate to the Cal Poly DSCI program.



Safer - CHW

Safer - CHW

Project Leads: Jennifer MacMartin & Kara Samaniego 

In the wake of Campus Health & Wellbeing's offering of medication abortion on-campus earlier this calendar year, Safer would like to host Laura Jimenez, the Executive Director of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CALRJ), to give a keynote speech regarding this intersection. With a long history of state-sponsored forced sterilizations and removal of bodily autonomy, CALRJ is committed to empowering Latina/xs and cultivating leadership toward a future of reproductive justice and accessible sexual healthcare.


Inter Housing Council

Inter Housing Council

Project Leads: Samuel Rueda, Lena Nguyen, Kristia Alvarez, Emmanuel Rivera-Romo, Carmen Smith & Galilee Wirth

The Inter-Housing Council would like to charter a bus to take residents to and from Vallarta Supermarket in Santa Maria. This bus would run biweekly, allowing residents the opportunity to acquire groceries and other authentic cultural goods.

This project aims to enhance the cultural and community engagement for Latiné students by celebrating their cultural heritage through diverse and authentic food options. This creates a platform for Latiné students to come together and enjoy a taste of home. The challenge our Cal Poly students may face is a lack of access to vehicles and the financial means to fuel a trip to Santa Maria, the nearest locale offering authentic Mexican goods. Mitigating the accessibility barrier with this grant, we are allowing our Latiné students the opportunity to access culturally significant goods that are otherwise unattainable within the City of San Luis Obispo.


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Department of Computer Science & Software Engineering

Project Leads: Dr. Javier Gonzales-Sanchez, Dr. Paul Anderson & Dr. Rafael Guerra-Silva

This initiative seeks to empower K-12 students in STEM fields by providing equitable access to educational resources. We aim to establish a meaningful partnership with Pacheco Elementary School, delivering a tailored bilingual curriculum to enhance the utilization of their Lego Mindstorm Lab. This curriculum will be a personalized adaptation of the Mindstorms Curriculum Coding Activities, closely aligned with the California K-12 Computer Science Standards endorsed by the CSforCA coalition. Activities will be described in Spanish, with efforts to incorporate elements from Latinx culture whenever appropriate. This project aligns with Cal Poly's HSI mission by increasing our presence in Latinx communities and K-12 schools. It also aims to legitimize bilingualism, foster linguistic diversity, and support outreach strategies grounded in culturally rich relationships.


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Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)

Project Leads: RoGer Wang & Drexler Alcantara

Research and Innovation - The EOP department is seeking funding for a graduate assistant work with the EOP Director and a EOP Counselor to analyze our EOP data for retention/graduation rates compared to general population, summer institute (SI) vs. non-summer institute participant retention/graduation rates, complete a needs assessment for all EOP student populations, completing some focus groups with EOP students, and diving further into first quarter success rates based on major for EOP/Non-EOP and SI/Non-SI to come up with a new possibilities for course selections for SI.


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Project Leads: Kanani Makekau, Stanley Leung & Polly Rai 

Our project highlights the pressing need for increased support for Cultural Commencements (CC) at Cal Poly. Our focus is on delivering a more personalized and intimate commencement experience for affinity groups, particularly as we pursue the designation of a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). Significantly, we've observed a 22% rise in attendance at our Chicanx/Latinx Commencement between 2022 and 2023. Many of these attendees have intersecting identities, participating in multiple CC events. As our growth and intersections continue, we aim to provide even more extensive support to our diverse community.

However, our current staffing levels are insufficient in providing the level of assistance that cultural commencements truly deserve. To attain our objective, the Commencement Office requests funding to hire an intern capable of effectively managing CC and facilitating additional support for CC coordinators. In alignment with recommendations 7 and 8 from the HSI task force, we intend to include Spanish language competency as a preferred skill for the position, which will aid in our goal of enhancing the accessibility for families and supporters of the Latinx CC. This effort aligns with our commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion and our pursuit of HSI designation.


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Communication Studies Department

Project Leads: Lilianna Rivas & Dr. Leslie Nelson

My senior project is a podcast with different guests each episode to explore identities and issues within the Latine community. Some topics would include the Latine trans experience, colorism, how loss of the Spanish language affects self identity, and Machismo culture. My project focuses on the question, “How do Latine individuals navigate and communicate their identities in society and within the Latine community?” The podcast brings diverse Latine voices to light as my podcast will focus on intersectionality. Latinx/e is not a monolith, the culture is rich and diverse and it causes conflict. To support a community includes addressing the issues in the community to ensure that all members are seen and supported. Issues regarding identities such as gender and sexuality are not addressed in Latine spaces like in the household. By making my podcast, I bring these issues to light and give people with intersectional identities a voice. The podcast will be a miniseries that I plan to premiere each episode in La CASA along with a discussion about the topics included in the podcast.


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School of Education (SABE Program)

Project Leads: Dr. Briana Ronan, Julee Bauer, Dr. Tina Chuek & Dr. Efrain Brito 

We are requesting a mini-grant in the amount of $4,604.00 to support bilingual, Latinx Cal Poly teacher candidates enrolled in the School of Education’s Spanish Authorization for Bilingual Educators (SABE) program. This program prepares bilingual teacher candidates to implement bilingual, culturally responsive lessons in their student teaching placement. The Cal Poly SABE candidates present findings from these lessons at the annual professional conference, California Association for Bilingual Education.

To better meet the needs of the Cal Poly SABE students, our program is in need of updated culturally responsive children’s and young adult books that better reflect the lived identities of Latinx bilingual communities. The books selected for purchase align with existing course textbook (España & Herrera, 2020) and utilize a critical bilingual literacies approach that shows how literacy, language, and power intersect.

We are also seeking funds to cover the registration fees for Cal Poly SABE students who plan to attend and present their work at the 2025 CABE conference. We believe that our proposal meets all three of the HSI task force goals, but in particular this proposal aims to improve the educational opportunities and curricular experiences for our Latinx, bilingual teacher candidates as well as the Latinx K-12 student population they serve.


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Music Department

Project Lead: Dr. Christoper Woodruff

Residency for Mariachi Voces Tapatías

The multi-day residency of local professional mariachi ensemble "Mariachi Voices Tapatías" will include presentations on history and style of the musical genre of western Mexico. The residency will also include masterclasses sharing the techniques of playing in the style for players of wind, brass and string instruments. The residency will culminate in a public performance by the group along with those students who have participated in the masterclasses and rehearsals.

The residency goes beyond providing entertainment service for campus events. It is intended to engage with current students of Hispanic heritage through this rich musical tradition, to illuminate in some depth for students who have had only superficial exposure to this cultural practice, and to develop skills for those campus students (not just music majors) who possess some skill on the relevant instruments.

Outreach for participation will be campus wide as well as to Hancock and to Cuesta. Depending on interest, Bldg. 45 (Music & Theater Building) may be insufficient to facilitate, in which case we would need to identify appropriate rental space (PAC Pavilion) for classes and performance.


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Psychology & Child Development

Project Leads: Dr. Susana Lopez & Dr. Jay Bettergarcia

The Psychology and Child Development Department is committed to supporting our Latine students via educational initiatives that center Latine students and foster a sense of belonging across campus. For the purposes of this HSI mini-grant, two Latine faculty will co-create Cal Poly’s first-ever Latine Psychology course with a group of Latine psychology students. In line with HSI-taskforce recommendations, this course provides opportunities for Latine students to engage in servingness through the co-creation of decolonial approaches to psychology education.

Decolonial approaches and Liberation Psychology explicitly name power imbalance and structures that perpetuate inequities. Liberation Psychology’s roots are in Latin America, and it aims to further understand oppression while working toward liberation of oppressed groups. This is in stark contrast with traditional psychological approaches that address the downstream mental health consequences for individuals rather than the structures causing harm.

The Latine student’s voices and experiences will be centered when developing the course, however, all students will benefit from Latine-focused courses as we expand our curriculum to reflect more closely the breadth and nuance of human experience and development. Additionally, the development of this course and future similar courses also increases future opportunities for hiring and retaining faculty with expertise in Latine psychology.


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Psychology & Child Development

Project Lead: Dr. Jay Bettergarcia 

While research about Latinx students’ experiences with belonging and servingness at HSI’s has increased, little is known about the specific needs and experiences of LGBTQ+ Latinx students. Latinx LGBTQ+ students’ sense of belonging and connectedness to community is often affected by the racism experienced in predominantly White queer and trans spaces, while also simultaneously navigating cultural gendered norms, heterosexism, and cissexism in predominantly Latinx spaces. Students living at these intersections are likely to have varied experiences navigating life on-campus and in the community, however, these experiences are not well documented or understood.

In my previous work with Latinx students, undocumented students, and LGBTQ+ students at Cal Poly, we focused on campus health and wellbeing (Mansager, Williams, & Bettergarcia, 2021) and barriers to accessing basic needs services (Mansager, Bettergarcia, Williams, 2022). To date we have not meaningfully examined the experiences of students at the intersections of these identities.

The proposed project provides mixed-method research experiences for bilingual Latinx LGBTQ+ students that centers community-based participatory research methods and a critical qualitative approach. The results of this work will inform the development of programs and services for students living at these intersections while simultaneously supporting queer and trans Latinx to develop as co-researchers.


The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)

Project Lead: Erick Pinedo Tovar 

Hispanics are underrepresented in STEM fields in the US. This underrepresentation can be seen in various aspects of STEM, including education, employment, and leadership positions. SHPE hopes that a lack of experience from the students and a lack of role models isn't one of those reasons for high school students in Santa Maria. We as a collective work to provide experiences relating to S.T.E.M. for the students of Santa Maria, and we have served those communities well. Students looking to engage with S.T.E.M. from underrepresented communities don't often have the luxury of experiencing topics within S.T.E.M. in the physical. We as a community focused on advocating for Hispanics and other underrepresented communities within S.T.E.M. Santa Maria has a large Hispanic population, with many students often being the first generation to go to college from their families. We as a club would like to provide a look into activities related to S.T.E.M. We want to bring attention and awareness of the possibilities in S.T.E.M. through presentations, activities, and experiences from others within S.T.E.M. majors! We want students interested in attending Cal Poly to know that various communities can help them acclimate to college once they graduate.

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