Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on
Educational Excellence for Hispanics and Southern California native was the keynote speaker
IRVINE, Calif. (October 24, 2016)— Concordia University Irvine (CUI) hosted its inaugural Latina Leadership Conference on Saturday, October 22, marking the launch of the private, non-profit Lutheran Christian four-year university's initiative to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) —private and public colleges, universities, or systems/districts where Hispanic enrollment constitutes a minimum of 25 percent of the student population. Over 400 students and parents from more than 20 schools in Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties attended the free, half-day conference—far exceeding the university's initial goal of 300 attendees.
"We are very proud to have kicked off our HSI initiative with the inaugural Latina Leadership Conference," said Concordia University Irvine President Kurt Krueger. "Our goal of becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution is an important part of our commitment to supporting a diverse educational environment that strengthens our campus community and enhances opportunities for dialogue, cultural enrichment and learning."
"As a first-generation Latina and Southern California native, it was an honor to partake in Concordia University Irvine's inaugural Latina Leadership Conference, an event to help empower and inspire Latinas to achieve their educational goals," said Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and Huntington Park native Alejandra Ceja, who kicked off the event with the keynote address. "Latinas are one of the fastest growing demographics in the U.S. and will comprise nearly one-third of the country’s female population by 2060. The conference was very much aligned with the national narrative focused on providing women and girls with equal access to education so that they are prepared to lead in the 21st century workforce. The conference also served to empower young Latinas with the tools and resources necessary to ensure that information does not become a barrier in their pursuit of attaining a college degree."
According to the Pew Research Center, although more Hispanics are obtaining a postsecondary education than ever before, Hispanics still trail other groups in getting a four-year degree. As of 2014, among Hispanics ages 25 to 29, only 15 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to about 41 percent of whites in the same age group. This gap is due in part to Hispanics being less likely than other groups to enroll in a four-year college, attend an academically selective college and enroll full-time.
Currently, Hispanic undergraduate enrollment constitutes 23 percent of the undergraduate student population at Concordia University Irvine (CUI), which is considered an emerging Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). When universities reach 25 percent or more of enrollment of Hispanic students, they are designated by the federal government as a full-serving HSI qualifying for funding to reach Hispanic students. As a full-serving HSI, Concordia would be the third four-year HSI university in Orange County, just behind Cal State Fullerton and Vanguard University.
According to a 2015 report, 60 percent of bachelor’s degrees earned by Hispanic students in the United States go to female Hispanic students, as opposed to their male counterparts. Concordia designed its conference to reach this demographic of first-generation (first-gen) female Hispanic juniors and seniors in high school, as well as those enrolled in community colleges.
The conference began with Alejandra Ceja’s keynote address, followed by the panels “Where I Started” and “Paying for College.” The panels were comprised of first-gen role models from a variety of sectors. Breakout sessions provided an opportunity for attendees to explore Concordia Irvine’s most popular majors--biology, business, communication studies, education, nursing, and psychology. The three most attended breakout sessions were business, nursing and psychology, according to organizers. The conference culminated with a lunch and an information fair featuring local community colleges, and Concordia University Irvine departments and majors.
About Concordia University Irvine
Concordia University Irvine (CUI) is a private non-profit Lutheran Christian four-year liberal arts university that prepares students for their vocations—their calling in life. Concordia offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs in education, nursing, theology, business, and coaching/athletics administration. CUI’s undergraduate program is distinctive because of its nationally recognized core curriculum, Enduring Questions & Ideas, and its Lutheran heritage that provides a thoughtful and caring Christian community that lives out the theology of "Grace Alone. Faith Alone." Concordia is a U.S. News Top Tier Regional University and has been named by The Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the fastest growing private nonprofit master's institutions. Marking its 40th anniversary this year, the university enrolls over 4,000 students annually and is in its final year of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II Membership Process.
1Pew Research Center, News in the Numbers, July 28, 2016, 5 facts about Latinos and education, By Jens Manuel Krogstad on the Internet at:
2 The Civil Rights Project and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics report, Fulfilling America's Future: Latinas in the U.S., 2015, By Patricia Gándara, Professor of Education, UCLA and Co-Director, The Civil Rights Project on the Internet at: http://sites.ed.gov/hispanic-initiative/files/2015/09/Fulfilling-Americas-Future-Latinas-in-the-U.S.-2015-Final-Report.pdf.
Lizz Mishreki, APR
Director of Public Relations
Concordia University Irvine