UArizona project will expand AZ HSI Consortium, support Hispanic students in STEM

Old Main building on the University of Arizona campus

The University of Arizona Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives recently launched Project LISTO, which aims to introduce Hispanic students to STEM-related majors and future job opportunities and provides a framework for Hispanic-Serving Institutions in Arizona and other states to do the same.

Chris Richards / University Communications

The University of Arizona is working to introduce its growing Hispanic student population to more opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. To help meet that goal, UArizona Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives has launched Project LISTO, with the support of $2.97 million from the National Science Foundation.  

Project LISTO, or Leveraging Insights to Strengthen Regional Talent and Opportunities, aims to introduce students to STEM-related majors and future job opportunities and provides a framework for Hispanic-Serving Institutions in Arizona and other states to do the same. 

A Hispanic-Serving Institution, or HSI, is a higher education institution with an enrollment of undergraduate students that is at least 25% Hispanic. Eligibility is determined annually, and institutions that qualify for the designation do not receive any additional financial resources with the classification but are eligible for federal and foundation grants that support HSIs and other minority-serving institutions. 

UArizona was the first four-year, public university in Arizona federally recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, earning the designation in 2018. There are currently 572 HSIs in the United States, including 21 in Arizona. 

Project LISTO, which was launched Aug. 1 and runs through July 2028, is meant to lay the foundation for a network of support for HSIs in Arizona to serve and support the graduation of Hispanic students and students from other underrepresented backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math. 

The project will become part of and improve the capabilities of the AZ HSI Consortium, which was launched by Marla Franco, vice president of UArizona HSI Initiatives, and Rey Rivera, president of Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale, Arizona. The consortium works to strengthen relationships among Arizona's 21 HSIs and promote academic success for Hispanic students. 

"Not only will this work allow us to scale and amplify engagement across our state, but it will allow for small, intentional teams from other states to come and experience our programmatic offerings through the consortium, so that it helps them take back ideas to their own states," Franco said. "These ideas may help inform their own strategies and approaches at their institutions and across their own states." 

Project LISTO will include eight core activities, some of which were already developed by HSI Initiatives and will be expanded to larger audiences thanks to the NSF funding. One activity is the HSI Seed Grants Program that HSI Initiatives offers in collaboration with UArizona Research, Innovation and Impact and Faculty Affairs. The expanded startup grants will be awarded in years two and four of Project LISTO and include $25,000 for funding and technical support for researchers and research teams. HSI Seed Grants are intended to support equity-focused scholarly research and work by faculty at Arizona HSIs that looks to better understand and improve culturally responsive practices that broaden participation in STEM studies. 

Franco said there are also plans to expand the initiative's HSI Grants Development Institute to include up to 50 participants a year. The institute not only increases awareness of HSI-related funding opportunities but also cultivates potential relationships between staff and faculty with equity-focused interests. The one-day program was previously open to UArizona faculty and staff but will be expanded to include HSIs across Arizona and in other states.  

Project LISTO will also work to strengthen relationships with STEM industries to better understand the workforce needs of such employers.

"Across our state and nationally, there is a desire and need to diversify the STEM workforce," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "Project LISTO and other work by the AZ HSI Consortium will work to fill that need by developing and distributing the tools and resources necessary for Hispanic-Serving Institutions like the University of Arizona to best serve their students." 

While the project will benefit students across Arizona's 21 HSIs, Franco said she hopes the project will also pull together AZ HSI Consortium resources and expertise into what she calls a "statewide consortium blueprint" that she can share with colleagues to help other states launch and support their own HSI programs. 

Franco said HSI Initiatives and the consortium both work to ensure positive outcomes for students and that the NSF funding for Project LISTO will allow UArizona to increase its impact. 

Other people involved in Project LISTO are Judy Marquez Kiyama, UArizona professor of educational policy studies and practice and head of the university's Culturally Responsive Curriculum Development Institute, and Heather Haeger, assistant professor of educational policy studies and practice. The funding will also support hiring a project manager. 

In addition to funding for Project LISTO, HSI Initiatives also recently received $950,000 from the Helios Education Foundation to expand the AZ HSI Consortium's presence throughout the state.  

The Helios Education Foundation was founded in 2004 and provides support for Hispanic and Black students and those from low-income backgrounds in Arizona and Florida. 

The three-year grant will fund the consortium's effort to improve and expand the AZ HSI Summit and allow the consortium to share its model and successes with national audiences. The consortium will also be able to launch what Franco calls an "influencer roadshow" that would allow consortium members to generate awareness of AZ HSIs among stakeholders, highlight contributions to educational attainment and economic development in Arizona, and communicate priorities for support and future partnerships. 

The AZ HSI Consortium will also partner with the Helios Education Foundation to launch the Challenge Grants program. Challenge Grants will support research that identifies barriers to success in postsecondary education Arizona HSIs and identifies and implements solutions to those challenges.