FPU initiates new lecture series


ALAS Lecture Series uses culture to understand diversity

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A new lecture series at Fresno Pacific University offers the public, students, faculty, administration and staff tools to succeed in a diverse world.

The ALAS Lecture Series comprises six public events and a series of related student activities beginning in January and concluding in April. ALAS is Spanish for “wings” and stands for Advancing Latino Academic Success.

Speakers will present on subjects such as education, history and art in public sessions, and meet with students for more informal talks. Speakers include Sheridan Wigginton, of California Lutheran University, Todd Hartch, of Eastern Kentucky University, Felipe Hinojosa, of Texas A&M University and Lillian Mendez-Marzinek, of Niagra University. The lectures are free and are open to the public.

Funding comes from a five-year, $2.36 million U.S. Department of Education grant that the university received in 2015 to encourage Hispanic and low-income students to enroll in and graduate from FPU.

FPU is one of 96 Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) that received more than $51 million in new awards in 2015. HSI program grants help make college more attainable for Hispanic students and assist schools with faculty development, curriculum development, academic tutoring and mentoring. An HSI is as an institution of higher education with at least 25 percent Hispanic full-time equivalent undergraduate enrollment. FPU is already listed by The Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the nation’s top 10 HSIs in graduating Latino/a students.

“Hispanics will soon represent nearly one in three American workers, and in this competitive global marketplace, a skilled workforce is a necessity,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a press release when the U.S. Department of Education announced the award.

In addition to the lecture series, the grant also financed the ALAS Multicultural Learning Center, the centerpiece of FPU's program that aims to make it possible for underserved and first generation college students to earn a bachelor's degree in four years. The learning center is located in Steinert Campus Center on the main campus and offers career counseling, academic support and practical support such as free computer and printing access.

The grant also supports efforts of faculty to broaden cultural content in new and existing courses and, in the fourth year, to create a minor in Latin American studies.

The objective of the grant in general and the series in particular is student retention and graduation. “The goal is to try to provide skills and tools to facilitate diversity and the changes in society,” says Francisco De Canto Viterale, ALAS Title V project coordinator.

“The final goal of everything is students,” said Gina Ponce de León, ALAS program director and associate professor of Spanish.

Ponce de León and Maribel Viveros, FPU assistant director of institutional research, worked for a year to land the five-year, $2.36 million U.S. Department of Education grant to encourage Hispanic and low-income students to enroll in and graduate from FPU.

Viveros and Ponce de Leon met weekly for six months to plan and four months to write the proposal. They combined Viveros’ strength in research with Ponce de Leon’s in academics.

“At the heart of it we’re both just passionate about seeing all our students succeed,” Viveros says.

All ALAS Lecture Series events are free of charge and  are free of charge and take place on the main FPU campus. For more information, contact Ponce de Leon at alas.coordinator@fresno.edu or 559-453-7183.




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