A Message from President Aceves: Announcing Hispanic Serving Institution Designation

It is with great joy that I announce that the federal government has designated Regis University as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). This is an important milestone in the history of the University and in the history of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in the United States. We are now one of only two Jesuit Universities to have been granted such status. HSI represents our progress in becoming a more diverse institution, representing the demographics of the larger community while also acknowledging the work we must do to become more inclusive in serving our students.

Dr. Nicki Gonzales is a professor of History and Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Regis. She served as Colorado’s State Historian from 2021 – 2022 and was named by Gov. Jared Polis to the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board. She was born and raised in Denver, and her family has deep roots in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Dr. Gonzales specializes in the history of the American West, with a focus on race relations and social and political movements. Her research interests include the land grant movements of Southern Colorado and the experiences of Chicano Vietnam Veterans. This is work that Nicki has been deeply connected with, and believes we need to continue looking at our past while making progress for our future.

I asked Nicki to reflect on her work and what it means to the Regis community:

“Officially, “A Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) is defined as an institution of higher education that…has an enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students that is at least 25 percent Hispanic students.” The roots of the federal HSI program lay in the post-Civil Rights Movement era, as Hispanic leaders formed the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) in order to create more educational opportunities for Hispanic college students. They sought to close the existing opportunity and achievement gaps that persisted, even in the shadow of Civil Rights and Higher Education legislation in the 1960s.  The federal HSI program emerged out of these efforts.

This designation provides us opportunities to support initiatives that will shape a more accessible, inclusive, and culturally-enhancing educational experience for Hispanic students, and in doing so will create a campus that honors and serves all of our students, no matter what their background is. Thus, we will all benefit from these opportunities.

As someone whose Mexican American family has deep roots here in Colorado and New Mexico, and as a historian who has studied the history of communities of color in our region, I have envisioned a future in which all students, no matter their ethnic/racial or socioeconomic background, would have the barriers to a college education removed and would have the opportunity to experience a true sense of belonging. We have an incredible opportunity to do some great work with this new designation.

While there has been a sense that we need to do more for our students, those options have been limited, yet our students deserve and are asking for additional support and innovative ways we can serve them. Building community has often been a challenge and I hope that with this new initiative we are able to tackle some of those challenges. As a Jesuit Catholic University there is always a sense of hope as we inspire our students to make our world more just and humane. With HSI, we will lean into serving our students and seize the opportunities that will come our way.  We cannot, however, do this without the voices of our students and we are committed to doing this work in partnership with them. 

Regis University Student Body President Madelaine Johnson describes HSI as “a chance for our community and administration to create an environment of support, affirmation, success, and representation for our Hispanic/Latino/a/x/e students. Walking in the Jesuit values means being Men and Women For and With Others, Cura Personalis, Magis, and more. I have hope that our University will continue to live through these values while serving the Hispanic/Latino/a/x/e community on campus.”

Celine Campos, a graduating senior, has hopes that HSI opportunities will enable greater support for“encouraging Latinas to enter STEM, a field dominated by men.” While Alexa Prado has hope that “HSI will enable us to have more events on campus that represent our culture. As a community I believe that we are called to guide those around us specifically first gen students. Not only in the university but also in high schools, middle schools, and possibly even elementary schools. Being able to go talk to younger students about the college process and building connections with them…and serving the community and being the guide that others need…to me HSI should be Men and Women for and with Others.” 

I am grateful for Nicki’s effort, the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusive Excellence team, the Student Advisory Committee, and our Regis community, who helped make this designation possible. This historic milestone invites us all to embark on this mission-aligned effort to build a more just and humane world.


Salvador Aceves, Ed.D