UWM Reaches Out to Prospective Latino, Hispanic Students by Speaking Spanish

As the Hispanic and Latino population continues to increase, colleges and universities are doing more to market to and recruit these students by speaking their language. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) is one school that’s making an effort to reach out to these students in Spanish.

“The Latino population is growing rapidly, and many find it easier to learn about colleges and universities in their own language,” Alberto Maldonado, assistant director for undergraduate and transfer recruitment and community relations for UWM, said in a statement.

Now the largest minority group in Wisconsin, Latinos make up 40 percent of residents under the age of 19, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Several UWM advisers who speak Spanish make regular visits to predominately Latino/a high schools in Wisconsin and Illinois. Beyond connecting with students at schools, advisers are reaching out to Latino youth in the community. In August, they staffed a UWM booth at Milwaukee’s Mexican Fiesta, and in September, they invited Latino and other underrepresented students from Milwaukee-area and nearby Waukesha County schools to the UWM campus for the National Hispanic College Fair.

According to Marilyn Vazquez, an admissions adviser at the university, many Latinos are the first in their families to go to college, and while most of these young people are bilingual, their parents may not speak much English. “It’s helpful to be able to meet the families and talk to them in their language,” she said.

In January, UWM will hold its second annual Bilingual Open House/Casa Abierta for students and families to meet with UWM advisers and learn more about the university in Spanish.

UWM advisers also try to help answer questions students and their families may have regarding living on campus, which UWM requires of first-year students; and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows certain young people who came to the U.S. as children to work and attend school even though they are considered undocumented.

“There are a great number of undocumented students who want to come to college,” said Maldonado. “They’re eager. They’re high-achieving and smart, and the people in their community have high hopes for them. We help them understand it’s possible for them to come to UWM.”

Hispanic and Latino students who attend UWM receive support from the Roberto Hernandez Center, which provides a limited number of emergency scholarships to UWM-enrolled Latino/a students; the center also organizes and sponsors campus celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo and Hispanic Heritage month.