Tech Boosts Opportunities for Hispanic Students

One of the largest producers of Hispanic/Latino engineers in the country is once again increasing efforts to boost recruitment and retention of Hispanic/Latino students courtesy of a new $2.285 million gift from The Goizueta Foundation.

The grant to Georgia Tech complements a previous donation of $4.25 million in 2001, which, among other things, helped the school set up permanent scholarship and fellowship endowments. Since that initial grant, Tech has seen a 125 percent increase in the number of Hispanic students enrolling as part of the fall freshman class.

The new gift increases the endowments for scholarships and fellowships to $4 million and sets up a new scholarship for non-traditional students. Thanks to the increase in funding, Tech will be able to almost double the number of scholarships and fellowships previously offered (currently 32 students receive this prestigious award). It also allows Tech to hire a program director who will administer the awards and support Hispanic/Latino recruiting.

"In the early '80s, when I was a student, there were no opportunities that I knew of for scholarships, grants or any kind of financial help targeted towards Hispanic/Latino students," said Jorge Breton, program director for The Goizueta Foundation Programs at Georgia Tech.

The scholarships and fellowships are open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are Hispanic/Latino, said Breton. This includes students of Portuguese and Brazilian descent.

The new scholarship for non-traditional students will be targeted to students between the ages of 25-40 who've had their education interrupted or delayed.

In addition to promoting and helping students apply for the scholarships, Breton said he will support students in other ways. "They can come to me and ask for guidance and I will tell them what resources we have on campus," he said. "I've been there and I know it's difficult to be away from home in a different culture."

The Goizueta Foundation was established by the late CEO and chairman of the board of directors of Atlanta-based The Coca-Cola Company, Roberto C. Goizueta. In addition to setting up the initial scholarship funds, the foundation's previous gift provided $1.5 million to establish The Goizueta Foundation Faculty Chair, $500,000 to establish The Goizueta Foundation Junior Rotating Faculty Chair and $250,000 to go towards Hispanic/Latino recruitment and retention.

Since Tech does not use racial or ethnic preferences in admissions, student recruiting is central to the school's efforts to increase diversity.

"The gifts from The Goizueta Foundation have allowed us to broaden our recruiting travel to areas that we would not have been able to touch in the past," said Giselle Martin, assistant director of undergraduate admissions. "Our increased visibility has allowed Tech to not only increase the number of Hispanic students interested in Tech, but it has also increased enrollment. We've grown the Hispanic student population at Tech each year, at the same time we've increased the quality of the our Hispanic applicant pool."

The two faculty chairs are essential to Tech's efforts to increase diversity. Part of the money for the chairs goes to fund academic initiatives like the research of faculty chair J. Carlos Santamarina.

"The funds allocated for academic initiatives allow us to explore, new long-term research themes that would not be possible otherwise in the context of the typical short-term funding cycles of state and federal agencies," he said.

Santamarina uses part of the Goizueta money to help support his research on engineered particulate matter, which has applications in drug research and food products among other things. Undergraduate research assistants working on this project will get a chance to be listed as an author in publications about their work.

Both Santamarina and the junior rotating faculty chair, Rigoberto Hernandez, also use part of their funding to mentor students both within their individual research groups and as part of the larger Goizueta initiative at Tech.

"We feel that The Goizueta Foundation has given us an incredible opportunity that we cannot miss," said Santamarina. "We monitor the students' academic performance. As the early groups are beginning to graduate, we will incorporate activities to support them through this stage when they explore the next steps in their lives."