UC Davis has a new leader in the university’s continuing effort to close the equity gap for Chicanx and Latinx scholars in higher education: Lina Mendez, recently appointed as the inaugural director of Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives.
Mendez has been with UC Davis for 18 years, working to ensure students are successful all through their time at the university. Most recently she was the founding associate director of the UC Davis Center for Chicanx and Latinx Academic Student Success. She holds a Ph.D. from UC Davis in educational policy and school organization.
“We are continuing on our path toward becoming an HSI, as designated by the U.S. Department of Education, and as we move forward, we are so proud of our Inaugural UC Davis HSI director, Dr. Lina Mendez,” said Renetta Garrison Tull, vice chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, or DEI. “We are very happy to have her with us in DEI, and the campus as a whole will benefit from her leadership.”
Mendez said she is looking forward to helping more students in the new role.
“It is my greatest honor to serve my alma mater in this leadership role as the inaugural director of HSI,” she said. “I am committed to finding more resources (financial, human and social capital) to ensure all students are successful at UC Davis.”
The process of receiving the HSI designation has several requirements that center on such factors as the percentage of students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and are of Hispanic heritage.
Funding opportunities that come with the designation are already presenting themselves: Last September the Graduate School of Management received UC Davis’ first HSI grant from the federal government.
New director’s focus
In 2019, the university’s HSI Task Force issued a report with four goals: prepare and attract a broad profile of “rising scholars” to UC Davis; ensure they learn, succeed, graduate and thrive; prepare and educate all students to serve a multicultural society; and harness the UC system’s strengths to transform public higher education.
The university uses the term “rising scholar” for Chicanx and Latinx students and other students who may identify as the first in their families to attend college, and experience a variety of educational disparities.
Mendez will now be responsible for implementing those recommendations and leading future work by the task force, which transformed into the HSI Phase 2 Implementation Task Force in November 2020, after Chancellor Gary S. May issued a new charge letter. The task force, led by DEI Associate Vice Chancellor Lorena Oropeza, is now centered around four subcommittees: recruitment; retention and persistence; communications; and grant-funding.
Mendez will also advocate for additional HSI funding from all levels of government and work to support rising scholars, broaden the academic pipeline for faculty and more.
She brings experience of having served on leadership positions with the Latinx Staff and Faculty Association (Davis and Sacramento), the Staff Diversity Administrative Committee and the UC Davis Chicanx Latinx Alumni Association.
She is the recipient of a Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity and Community (2018), Social Justice Award for Seeding Improvement in Education Policy and Practice (2018) and Outstanding Advising Administrator Award (2017). and shared in a Staff Assembly Citation of Excellence Team Award (2020).
Cody Kitaura is a News and Media Relations Specialist in the Office of Strategic Communications, and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.