With sunny skies, music, food trucks and festive spirits, Elmhurst University celebrated the grand opening of the Center of the Blue Promise/El Centro de la Promesa Azul on Wednesday, Sept. 13.
Located in the lower level of Niebuhr Hall, the Center of the Blue Promise is a culturally inclusive space and meeting/gathering spot aimed at nurturing student success among the University’s Hispanic, underserved and first-generation college students.
“This Center is a space, a place, where everyone on this campus is welcome, and where we are centering our intentionality about serving our fastest-growing population, our Hispanic students,” said Bruce King, vice president for equity and inclusion, to a large crowd of students, faculty and staff during the celebration outside Niebuhr Hall. “We want to make sure the work we’re doing is moving from enrolling our Hispanic, Pell Grant-eligible and first-generation students, to making sure we are serving them in every way, every day, and in every corner of this campus.”
The new Center is funded largely through a $3.4 million federal Title V grant, which the University applied for and received in the fall of 2022, within months of being designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) by the U.S. Department of Education. (Colleges and universities can gain HSI status if, over at least three consecutive years, more than 25 percent of their full-time undergraduate students identify as Hispanic or Latinx.) That Elmhurst was awarded the highly competitive grant so soon after achieving HSI status is unusual, King said, and speaks to the strength of the application and its vision for what an HSI should look like at Elmhurst.
Services provided by the Center will include programming, leadership development, efforts to connect students to other campus resources, and greater engagement with students’ families, to bring them into the educational process. The Center also will be a meeting place, and a place where a student can just “drop in to find out what’s happening, to study, or to just hang out with more people who reflect your lived experience,” King said.
Gabriel Galindo ’24, president of the Elmhurst U. chapter of the national foreign language society Alpha Mu Gamma, urged students to use and enjoy the Center.
With support from faculty and students, I hope that we can maintain this and keep it going,” he said. “It falls on us students, as Hispanics, as Latinos, to represent who we are alongside this institution. Let’s keep that voice open and keep El Centro open for the future.”
Funds from the HSI grant also will support faculty development, curriculum revisions to the First Year Seminar program, and greater opportunities for Hispanic and Latinx students to take part in such high-impact practices as studying abroad, doing undergraduate research, and taking part in internships and service learning, said Karina Rivera, project director of the grant.
“We want to make sure we’re helping students transition easily to Elmhurst,” she said, “and make sure they’re taking advantage of all the opportunities and experiences we have here.”