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Building on a Dream: CSUN Launches Global Hispanic Serving Institution Equity Innovation Hub

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The center will increase student success and equip historically underserved students with skills for high-demand careers in STEM

When California State University, Northridge begins construction on its newGlobal Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Equity Innovation Hub next year, university leaders hope to break ground not just literally, but metaphorically — and academically.

The ambitious project aims to provide opportunities and inspire Latinx and other underrepresented students to pursue degree pathways to STEM fields — and close the historic equity gaps that have persisted in those fields and careers. University leaders also want to foster pathways for preschool through high school students in the region and across the state to the California State University (CSU) system and STEM education, as well as raise CSUN’s visibility as a regional force for science and engineering education.

“It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this project in advancing our collective commitment to eliminating equity gaps and facilitating a brighter andmore equitable future for us all,” CSUN President Erika D. Beck said. “By embracing thought partners across the CSU and around the nation, the Global Hispanic Serving Institution Equity Innovation Hub will advance a data-practice-leadership framework to become a place that engages the richness of diversity of our communities, inspiring future and existing students, families, faculty, staff and leaders to reimagine the future of STEM industries and beyond.

“Creating authentic and systemic change on our campus and well beyond our doors will require the partnership of every member of our academic community — students, faculty, staff, administrative leaders, alumni, donors and friends,” Beck said. “This is the first of many opportunities for our campus to lead with intentionality as we seek to eliminate equity gaps and elevate opportunities for all students.”

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Scheduled to open in fall 2024, the nearly 32,000-square-foot HSI Equity Innovation Hub will include state-of-the art research labs — including a design and digital capture lab, and a fabrication lab — plus a maker space for the campus and wider community, and what university leaders are calling a “next-generation student success center” to provide peer-led student support services beyond the classroom and enable students’ progression to graduation and transition to high-demand careers in STEM and in the creative and tech economies.

Historic Gift Expands Hub’s Scope

The hub is the result of a public-private partnership and was made possible through a $25 million allocation in the 2021-22 California state budget, an additional $1 million in federal funding shepherded by U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, and a historic donation from Apple. It was launched thanks to an initial donation by design software giant Autodesk, which is led by President and CEO Andrew Anagnost (’87 Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science minor). In late August, Apple announced its $25 million donation to CSUN — the second-largest gift from a single donor in university history — as part of the company’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative. The landmark gift is significantly expanding the programmatic scope and national potential of the HSI Equity Innovation Hub, which will partner with HSIs across the CSU and around the country to ensure that historically underserved students have the opportunity to explore careers in creation and innovation. In addition to its financial support, Apple also will provide technology, design support and thought partnership as the HSI Equity Innovation Hub expands.

“Our country’s future social and economic well-being will depend on the success of students who have historically been excluded from higher education earning a college degree,” said Amanda Quintero, special assistant to the president for inclusive excellence at CSUN. “Apple has made these bold partnerships with minority-serving institutions because they open the doors to educational opportunity for racially and ethnically diverse communities. Through the work of the Hub, we will activate the potential of the national network of HSIs, which is 569 strong, to reach across the CSU and nation to prepare the talent we will need to build an inclusive workforce of the future.” With its support for this initiative, Apple is com- mitted to an interdisciplinary approach and engaging students in creative and disruptive thinking, leverag- ing technology to solve real-world problems in service to their communities, Quintero added.

Opening Doors to STEM Early

University leaders envision the HSI Equity Innovation Hub as a door for students as young as preschool and their families — and with particular focus on mentoring middle school and high school students — throughout the region. By making those connections and cultivating an interest in STEM early, educators hope to narrow and eventually eliminate equity gaps and college graduation rates for underserved students.

CSUN is among the nation’s leaders in awarding degrees to Latinx students, and more than 21,000 of the campus’ approximately 39,000 students enrolled in fall 2021 identified as Latinx. HSIs are defined under the Higher Education Act as colleges or universities where at least 25% of the undergraduate, full-time enrollment is Latinx; and at least half of the institution’s degree-seeking students must be low-income. Twenty-one of the CSU’s 23 campuses meet these criteria, allowing them to compete for federal funding to build institutional capacity that expands and enhances educational opportunities for their students, in particular Latinx and other students from historically underserved groups. “The CSU, the nation’s largest four-year higher education system, has long been a leader in serving Latinx students,” said CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro. “The CSU takes great pride in the work we have undertaken to provide pathways to STEM education that result in the careers that power the world’s fifth-largest economy. Through bold vision from our state’s leaders in Governor Gavin Newsom, Senator Padilla, Congressman Tony Cárdenas and state Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, this is an exciting opportunity to collaborate with an outstanding partner in Apple— and to leverage their cutting-edge and creative technologies with the intellectual capacities of world-class faculty to combine that work to benefit thousands of talented students in California and beyond.”


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