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Birthplace of HSI

OLLU: The birthplace of Hispanic Serving Institutions

In 1986, Dr. Antonio Rigual, OLLU’s provost at that time, convened a group of leaders from 18 universities to discuss the formation of an association of colleges and universities that served large populations of Hispanic students. From that meeting, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) was born and was housed on the OLLU campus through its early years. The association lobbied Congress and the federal designation of Hispanic Serving Institution or HSI was born. Today, there are more than 500 HSIs in the U.S., Latin America and Spain.

As the birthplace of the HSI designation, OLLU celebrates its rich Latino history. OLLU continues to have one of the highest percentages of Hispanic student enrollment in the nation and is a top 90 producer of Hispanic graduates with master’s degrees.

OLLU is proud of a legacy that reaches across the U.S. and beyond, extending into outer space.

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Face of hispanic higher education

OLLU Hispanic history

  • In 1967, OLLU launched the nation’s first bilingual education training program for teachers.
  • In 1968, OLLU hosted the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Hearings on Mexican Americans in the Southwest which addressed concerns on the issues of education, employment, economic security, and the administration of justice as they affected Mexican Americans in Texas, Arizona, California, Colorado, and New Mexico.
  • In 1969, State Senator Joe Bernal (MEd 1954) authored the first bilingual education act in Texas.
  • In 1988, alumnus Col. Gil Coronado (BA 1975) persuaded Congress to extend National Hispanic Heritage Week to 30 days and is now known as the father of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Outstanding achievements of OLLU Hispanic alumni

  • Alumna Yvonne Villegas-Aguilera supervised the building and design of rocket boosters that launched NASA’s Artemis 1 rocket 230,000 miles from earth to orbit the lunar surface.
  • In 2022, David Romo (BA 2013) won a National Emmy with Noticias Univision. 
  • Richard Acosta (BBA 1973) is an OLLU Trustee and the owner of 48 McDonald’s franchises with 2,000 workers and a $30 million payroll.
  • Verónica Salazar-Escobedo (BA 1965) is a philanthropist who, with her husband Rubén Escobedo, donated $2.1 million to start the Salazar-Escobedo School of Mass Communication and Theater at OLLU.

 OLLU continues to be a premiere Hispanic Serving Institution

  • OLLU is among the top 90 universities nationally for awarding master's degrees to Hispanic students. (The Hispanic Outlook on Education magazine 2022).
  • OLLU has been ranked as a Top 100 Producer of Graduate Degrees among minorities by Diverse Issues in Higher Education Magazine. Rankings for specific programs include:
    #1 - Doctoral Psychology - Hispanic Graduates
    #1 - Doctoral in Leadership - Hispanic Graduates
    #8 - Master's in Communication Sciences and Disorders - Hispanic Graduates
    #11 - Master's in Social Work - Hispanic Graduates
    #14 - Master's in Management - Hispanic Graduates
    #35 - Master's in Psychology - Hispanic Graduates
  • OLLU ranks among the top 24 universities in the nation and the top five in Texas for economic diversity. (U.S. News and World Report, 2023 Best Colleges)
  • OLLU boasts one of the nation’s largest percentages of Hispanic degree-seeking undergraduates (76%) and is ranked No. 10 in the nation (

Recent Hispanic Serving Institution/Minority Serving Institution grants received by OLLU 

  • $3 million Rethink to Retain: IDEA in Action grant aims to improve retention of first time in college students. This project will improve student success through infusion of high-impact practices in the first/second-year experience, focused faculty development and leadership opportunities and development of collaborative learning spaces. 
  • $3 million Disrupting Academia grant provides support to graduate students and improves campus facilities and services. The project will enhance the Master of Arts in Teaching and Master of Education degrees to include a Bilingual Special Education Certification. Money is also designated for first-generation graduate student scholarships and there are funds to assist with the renovation of Chapel Auditorium and Metz Hall.  
  • $2.2 million Connecting Minority Communities grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration. 
  • $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program which provides encouragement and services to limited-income and first-generation college students, while also increasing the participation from underrepresented minority groups pursuing doctoral study by providing enriching experiences, support and guidance to program participants.
  • $495,356 National Science Foundation (NSF) Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) grant to help students pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees.
  • $284,106 (over three years) from the National Science Foundation, Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI Program) to fund the Supporting Persistence by Increasing the Relevance of Algebra to Learning (SPIRAL) project which aims to improve STEM outcomes among OLLU students. 
  • $250,959 grant funded project sponsored by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a subordinate of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It is part of a $1 million, four-year Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) Education grant shared with the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Northeast Lakeview College (NLC). The grant aims to build a city-wide collaboration to facilitate career readiness in food and agriculture sciences (FAS) through science literacy and counter-storytelling.