UCF ranks No. 8 for Hispanics
School awarded 1,604 degrees in ’10-’11
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 16:06
Do you feel UCF is doing enough to reach out to the Hispanic community?
UCF may be known for its impact on the research and engineering community, but it’s rapidly becoming home to another demographic of students. According to the Hispanic Outlook of Higher Education Magazine, UCF ranks as one of the top 100 colleges in the country for Hispanic-American students to earn their undergraduate degrees.
UCF was ranked eighth in the country in providing bachelor’s degrees for Hispanic students, awarding 1,604 degrees in the 2010-2011 academic year. The only other Florida school in the top 10 was top-ranked Florida International University. UCF also awarded more than 200 master’s degrees to Hispanic students that same year.
One of UCF’s newest programs focusing on this demographic is the Latin American Studies Program. Originally offered only as a minor, the bachelor program was awarded by the university’s Board of Trustees last year for the fall semester. The program’s first student graduated this past spring semester. The program had 10 students last semester and already has 12 signed up for next fall.
Jose Maunez-Cuadra, the director of the program, is from Puerto Rico and is amazed at the increased diversity of students since he became director of the program nearly eight years ago.
“There weren’t that many Hispanics on campus several years ago,” Maunez-Cuadra said. “If I wanted to hear someone speak Spanish, I had to walk around campus and talk to myself.”
Maunez-Cuadra and his staff have been active in recruiting both off and on campus for the program by visiting local community colleges, universities and attending on-campus orientations. But the program is not just for Hispanic students. In fact, 60 percent of the students in the program are not Hispanic.
“That’s a perception we have to work to get out. Most of our students do not speak Spanish [and] are not Hispanic,” Maunez-Cuadra said. “They are interested [in the program] because they get a perspective of over 30 countries in Central and South America.”
Alaina Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican sophomore studying biology, believes that UCF is striving to uphold its commitment to increase and encourage diversity.
“There are a lot of us in the Central Florida area,” she said. “The majority of the people in the Orlando area are Hispanic. The more UCF reaches out to us, the more it shows that they want to help you and help us get our education.”
Yahsiel Torres, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, thinks it is important that UCF is offering programs that delve into Latin American culture and knowledge since America’s economy can often be boosted by trade and business with its southern neighbors.
“It’s important because Hispanics are one of the fastest-growing groups in America, and Florida is the access point to the Caribbean and South America,” Torres said.
Torres is also in charge of public relations for the Hispanic American Students Association, a student organization that celebrates Latin American culture and tradition on campus.
Maunez-Cuadra stresses that an important aspect of the program is facilitating business with Latin American countries by learning more than just their language and culture.
“A student that gets involved in studies will naturally have an interest and understanding of the history, culture and food, but that is not going to suffice,” Maunez-Cuadra said. “That student also has to balance that with knowledge in science, engineering, etc., and use that to be a vehicle between the U.S. and Latin America for the purpose of doing business. The point is to get our graduates out into the business community.
“Not only Hispanics should be ready, but non-Hispanics should be ready as well. There has to be an understanding that we cannot continue to be a monolingual society. We have to accept that we live in a bilingual and even trilingual world. This is in our interest not only culturally, but financially as well.”
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