By Maureen Ruiz-Sundstrom
Harvey Mudd College
Being now in my third year on the job, I feel that I am in a position where, more than just improve on the programs I currently oversee, I can begin to think about new potential programs that could benefit our prospective students and families. First on my list: Spanish programming.
Spanish programming is very near and dear to my heart. While I wasn’t exactly a first-generation college student (as far as I understand, my dad has a bachelors and my mom an associates), my parents completed their degrees a long, long time ago, in a country far, far away (Nicaragua). When it came to me graduating high school in Panama while applying to American colleges, they had no real understanding of the process or any clue of how to help me, and the fact that all websites and brochures were in English did not help. My mom has said time and time again that for most of my college process she didn’t even know what questions to ask, and by the time she figured them out, she was kept from asking them due to language barriers. From campus visits all the way to freshman orientation, my parents felt like the schools we were considering were not taking their language situation into consideration.
For the last few years, Spanish programming at my institution has consisted of sending a translated version of our parent letter to all admitted students that identified Spanish as their first language or the language spoken at home in the Common Application. I was particularly aware of our need to buff up our programming for our Spanish-speaking families last year during our Admitted Students Program, when a student’s family opted out of many of our panels and information sessions due to their language limitation. It was at that point that I decided this year I would like to offer a session during our Admitted Students Program specifically intended for our Spanish-speaking families. I’ve since received support from the rest of my office and plan to move forward with this “¿Preguntas?” session next April. My hope is to also include our Director of Financial Aid and Assistant Dean for Institutional Diversity, since they also speak Spanish and will help me address a much wider range of potential questions.
The other kind of program for Spanish-speaking prospective families we are pioneering this year are web events, the first one to take place this week! Our “Conociendo a Harvey Mudd” web event will introduce families to our academic and research programs, student life and support systems, and our admission and financial aid processes. It will also allow them to ask questions directly to our panelists: myself, our Assistant Dean for Institutional Diversity and a current HMC junior.
I don’t know what kind of interest we will get when it comes to these events (the number of pre-registrations for our web event, while climbing, is still small) or how useful they will be for our prospective families. I am hopeful that they will be successful and will inspire our office to put together even more programming for a group of prospective families that, while quiet, are definitely present.