LSU Celebrates Diversity with Increased Opportunities for Hispanic Students

One of the tenets of LSU's Flagship Agenda 2020 is to strengthen the intellectual environment by broadening the cultural diversity of the LSU community through expanded support for minority, international and first generation students. Despite ever increasing admissions standards, the university has made strides in reaching that goal by bringing in the most diverse freshman class in school history this fall, including the largest Hispanic student population in school history.

In the fall of 2012, LSU enrolled it's largest freshman class in the university's history, including a record number of Hispanic students. Some of LSU's notable Hispanic alumni include the presidents of several Central and South American countries. Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

The 1,305 students who identified as Hispanic represent 4.4 percent of the total undergraduate student body at LSU, equaling the percentage of Louisiana residents who identified as Hispanic in the 2010 census. From 2000-04, LSU's Hispanic student population was only 2.3 percent Hispanic. After increasing by 0.1 to 0.4 percent each year from 2005-2011, the Hispanic population grew by 0.6 percent in 2012, and is almost two and a half times the Hispanic student population in 1994.

"Recognizing the growth in our enrollment of Hispanic students, it has been important for us to help cultivate a thriving Hispanic student community at LSU," said Chaunda Allen, director of multicultural affairs at LSU. "Through the Office of Multicultural Affairs, we have assisted in the establishment of student organizations focusing on Hispanic culture and continue to connect this growing student population to campus and community resources.

"When students can participate in activities and organizations in which they can identify, we increase the likelihood of them having a well-rounded student experience and can retain them at greater rates. We will continue to assess needs and provide support for this emerging student population."

Hispanic Student Cultural Society

LSU's Hispanic Student Cultural Society recently celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with a variety of events in 2012. Supported by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Hispanic Cultural Society helps to promote a sense of community among Hispanic students at LSU, and supports and assists new and perspective Hispanic students. The society also brings awareness of the diversity among Hispanic cultures to the LSU community through educational programming events and community service.

"It is important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month to educate the community about Hispanic culture and the differences that exist within Hispanic culture," said Estefania Reichard, president of the Hispanic Student Cultural Society and a senior majoring in international studies. "Hispanic culture has been influenced by many regions across the world including Africa, Spain and Portugal. It is important to recognize these regions and other regions that contribute to Hispanic culture to build awareness and break down stereotypes."

LSU's Hispanic Student Cultural Society recently celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with several events including the annual Hispanic Showcase in Free Speech Plaza on Oct. 4, which provided awareness and celebrated the Hispanic culture. Eddy Perez/LSU University Relations

On Sept. 20, the society hosted "Fiesta Night" at The 5 and 459 Commons dining halls and a social was held at Mellow Mushroom on Sept. 26. The month's events concluded with the annual Hispanic Showcase in Free Speech Plaza on Oct. 4, which provided awareness and celebrated the Hispanic culture.

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Americans celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, honoring citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week. On Aug. 17, 1998, President Ronald Reagan expanded Hispanic Heritage Week to a 30-day period starting on Sept. 15, the day Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatamala, Honduras and Nicaragua declared their independence in 1821.

Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity

In the spring of 2010, Phi Iota Alpha, the nation's oldest Latino-based fraternity that promotes Pan-American development through scholarship, cultural consciousness and social responsibility, returned to LSU's campus. Phi Iota Alpha is part of the university's ongoing effort to increase outreach and campus life opportunities for LSU's growing Hispanic student population.

"Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity has come a long way in the past two years due to their hard work and dedication by their members and advisors," said Jonathan Sanders, associate director of Greek Life at LSU. "I am excited to see that the hard work has paid off and that they not only met, but exceeded the qualifications by their National Organization to be chartered this past spring as the Alpha Alpha chapter. I look forward to their continued progress and the impact they will continue to make in our Greek community."

In 1931, Phi Lambda Fraternity, a northern-based organization, and Sigma Iota Fraternity, which was southern-based, united under the same ideals and principles to form Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity. With articles of incorporation filed in Louisiana on Dec. 26, 1931, Phi Iota Alpha became the first Latino fraternity at LSU, and held the distinction of being the Alpha chapter for the new national organization.

Chaunda Allen, LSU's director of multicultural affairs, was named the Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity Faculty Adviser of the Year for her support of the LSU chapter, becoming the first African-American woman to earn this honor. Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

With a mission to develop leaders and create innovative ways to unite the Latino community, Phi Iota Alpha was a strong and thriving entity at LSU for many years. However, a decrease in enrollment of Latino students in the 1970s led to dwindling membership and forced the organization to become inactive.

In July 2012, as Phi Iota Alpha celebrated its 80th anniversary in New Orleans, the Alpha Alpha chapter at LSU was officially chartered as a new chapter. The Alpha Alpha designation was given in recognition of the university's roots as the founding chapter of Sigma Iota Fraternity, the first Latin American-based Greek intercollegiate fraternity in the United States.

"Receiving our charter as the Alpha Alpha chapter has been one of the highlights in my life since joining Greek life," said Erick Perdomo, president of the Alpha Alpha chapter of Phi Iota Alpha. "I know receiving our charter was one of the main goals for the re-founders and finally achieving that goal leaves more room for us to grow as a chapter. Hopefully with this achievement, our success and involvement in our Greek community will grow."

At the Phi Iota Alpha convention in New Orleans in July, LSU's Marlon Boutin was named the Phi Iota Alpha Alumni of the Year for his efforts in expanding the fraternity in the state of Louisiana, and especially in establishing the chapter at LSU.

"Being recognized as the Alumni of the Year was an honor, especially being awarded in my hometown, New Orleans, at our 80th Convention," said Boutin. "This was an historic convention for Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity and the Alpha Alpha chapter, as our work and history came together and exemplified our progress. I'm proud to be a brother spreading our professional and Pan-American values here in Louisiana."

In addition, Allen was named the Phi Iota Alpha Faculty Adviser of the Year for her enormous support of the LSU chapter, while also becoming the first African-American woman to earn this honor.

Founded at LSU in 1931, Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity is the oldest Latino-based fraternity that promotes Pan-American development. In the spring of 2010, the fraternity returned to LSU's campus. It was officially chartered as the Alpha Alpha chapter in July 2012.Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

"I am deeply honored to have been named Adviser of the Year by Phi Iota Alpha and humbled to have been nominated by the men of the Alpha Alpha chapter," said Allen. "Working with the men has been such a rewarding experience. They are truly an example of what can happen when you stay focused on your goal.

"For me, this has been a team effort to bring back and sustain Phi Iota Alpha at LSU. This is quite an accomplishment for Phi Iota Alpha and the LSU Greek community. I could not be more proud of them for all of their accomplishments."

LSU has had a long history of graduating outstanding Hispanic students, including several members of Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity. Some notable Hispanic LSU alumni include the presidents of several Central and South American countries, who were all members of Phi Iota Alpha – Carlos Roberto Flores Facussé, the president of Honduras from 1998-2002; Eric Arturo Delvalle, the president of Panama from 1985-88; Marianao Ospina Peréz, the president of Colombia from 1946-1950; and Carlos Lleras Restrepo, the president of Colombia from 1966-1970.

With such a rich history on campus, LSU is looking forward to a bright future, one that features a multicultural campus community that recognizes and appreciates students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. This interaction will help to provide a well-rounded collegiate experience for all students and hopefully, once again, produce the world leaders of tomorrow.