Greetings Colleagues!  I would like to briefly introduce myself, as this is my first post for the DEA blog. My name is Diana Moreno and I am an Assistant Director in the Office of Admission at the University of Southern California. I am looking forward to contributing to the blog and engaging in meaningful discussions about issues of diversity, equity and access.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my very first research article was published in a special issue for The Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies. The article was a collaboration with Dr. Sheila Sanchez Banuelos, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Clinical Education at USC’s Rossier School of Education. The stories and experiences our participants were truly inspirational and certainly had an impact on the way I view my role as a higher education professional.  Our article titled “The Influence of Latina/o Greek Sorority and Fraternity Involvement on Latina/o College Student Transition and Success,” discusses the impact of these organizations on the academic and social experiences of Latina/o college students. Based on two previous research studies conducted by both myself and Dr. Sanchez Banuelos, the article discusses how Latina/o students involved in Latina/o sororities and fraternities gained peer support and motivation, a sense of belonging on campus, and became empowered and encouraged to assume leadership roles across their university–all factors that ultimately encouraged their retention and success in college. I invite you to read the article in its entirety here:

So what does this all mean for college admission professionals on either side of the desk? That is a great question!  We all know that the undergraduate experience consists of much more than what takes place inside the classroom. Oftentimes, the experiences that students have outside of the classroom can significantly affect their course work, emotional and physical well-being, and overall undergraduate experience. For Latino students, and for many first generation and/or students of color, finding a supportive community early on that helps them tie together their home culture and traditions and the culture of the university is key to ensuring their retention and success at the university. Cultural organizations are often a great way for students to become better acquainted and involved with campus life, while maintaining a connection to cultural traditions, practices and other things that are important and remind them of “home.”  In particular, Latina/o sororities and fraternities provide a tight-knit community where students can share traditions, have meaningful dialogue about their experiences at the university, and prepare and become empowered to assume leadership roles in the larger campus community.  As counselors, we might not often think of these student organizations as a place to refer students or as an activity that might help smooth the transition to college. However, I encourage all of us to think about these student organizations, as we advise students about what they should begin to think about in regards to experiences outside of the classroom. These are special communities that students may begin to explore even before attending college. Many Latina/o sororities and fraternities have special programs for high school students and/or mentorship programs for first-year college students. These provide a great way for students to explore the college campus in a more personal way and to make meaningful connections and gain a supportive peer group even before beginning their first semester of college! On either side of the desk, let’s think outside the box and explore less traditional ways of introducing and connecting first-generation and/or students of color to a college campus.

By Diana Moreno