March 25, 2016

A Renewed Commitment at IUPUI: Latino Voices Shape America's Future

IUPUI Cesar Chavez Celebration Dinner
Indiana Convention Center
Indianapolis, Indiana


It is my great pleasure to welcome you to this evening’s Cesar Chavez Celebration Dinner. In IUPUI’s long tradition of fostering student leadership and engagement, this is a student organized celebration.  Would you please join me in giving our student leaders who organized this wonderful dinner a round of applause? 

I would also like to thank our keynote speaker, Alejandra Rincon, an award-winning educator and advocate for immigrant rights in the educational system. She will be introduced more fully a little later in the program, but would you please help me welcome her?

The Future of America

Tonight’s celebration honors the life and legacy of a hero who dedicated his life to helping others.  He was a voice for the people, and his commitment to social justice and activism still inspires us today. 

Even as we honor the past that Cesar Chavez represents, I look around this room and see the future of America in the Latino faces here. The United States is becoming a majority-minority nation with Latinos the fastest growing segment of the population. The growth of this vibrant and engaged community will translate into an increasingly powerful voice in shaping this country's future:  in shaping American culture . . . and American politics.

And higher education will only strengthen that voice.

Today’s political landscape emphasizes the vital importance of an educated electorate where voters of all backgrounds understand the issues and are not distracted by political theatrics. . . or should I say HUGE political theatrics?

A few months ago, I was invited to address a group of about 100 Latino high school students from Indiana who were visiting IUPUI as part of a college prep program. 

I talked with these students about their hopes and aspirations, about what their parents wanted for them, about their futures.

And I saw myself in their dreams. I was a first generation college student.  When I was about their age, my father gave me this advice:  he told me to get an education and go as far as I could with it.  So he put me on a plane for the United States when I was nineteen, not knowing whether he would ever see me again. 

I won’t lie to you.  It was hard.  I was in what was to me then a foreign country:  strange food, a new language, no family close by.  But I made it, and I know that they can too.

Education will be the key to their future, and with it, they will be deciding the future of our country.

Student Success at IUPUI

IUPUI’s future is as a majority-minority campus.  Not in the next year or even in the next five years, but we are already planning for that future and creating pathways for all students to succeed. 

Over a quarter of our students are students of color, and I’m delighted that this fall, IUPUI set a new record for Hispanic and Latino enrollment, which increased by 7.6 percent. 

IUPUI’s future is as a majority-minority campus.  Not in the next year or even in the next five years, but we are already planning for that future and creating pathways for all students to succeed.

We want to make sure that those Latino students who enroll at IUPUI, succeed, and graduate. To this end, earlier this semester, I called for the formation of the Task Force on Latino Student Recruitment and Retention. This group is reviewing current recruitment and retention initiatives focused on Latino students in order to identify opportunities to enhance their success. 

With these activities and the work of our new director of undergraduate admissions, we will refine our efforts to help Latino students choose IUPUI and succeed here.

Welcoming Campus Initiative

All of these efforts are closely tied to our strategic priority to make IUPUI a more welcoming and inclusive campus. 

To help achieve this goal, earlier this month, I launched the IUPUI Welcoming Campus Initiative.  We are looking for broad input on what it means for IUPUI to be truly welcoming for students, faculty and staff, alumni, and community members.  Five taskforces—including representatives from the Latino Student Association and the Latino Faculty and Staff Council—will be studying this question, and they will make their initial recommendations by the end of the spring semester. 


I am excited the progress that we are making as a campus community.  As we celebrate the life of Cesar Chavez this evening, I would also like for us to recognize this as a milestone.

As I begin my second six months as Chancellor of IUPUI, let this mark the beginning of IUPUI’s renewed commitment to the Latino community. Together we will create a future of more opportunity, increased partnership, and stronger communities.  Let my father’s advice about the power of education guide us towards that future.