Texas Lutheran University has been awarded a $2.89 million Title V grant from the Department of Education to create the BUENOS Center for Excellence. This is the largest competitive grant in the university’s history. The BUENOS (Bulldog Undergraduates Engaging iN Opportunities for Success) Center will meet the needs of TLU’s diverse student population through enhanced and inclusive programs, targeting students who are academically at risk. The center will also develop four-year plans for all students with integrated academic and career planning. The grant will be funded over five years starting October 1, 2023.
As a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), TLU will use the Title V grant to directly support students with two main project goals: 1) Improve undergraduate degree attainment of Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students by strengthening academic skills for success, and 2) Enhance and expand career development and support for Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students.
“The impact of this grant will be tremendous for TLU, as it builds programs and opportunities across campus to ensure the success of all of our students,” TLU President Dr. Debbie Cottrell said. “We recognize the importance of intentional and dedicated efforts to meet the needs of our diverse student body, and this grant will allow us to advance these efforts in significant and exciting ways.”
According to Dr. David A. Ortiz, TLU VP for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Principal Investigator of the BUENOS Grant, the university historically enrolled a predominately white and significantly Lutheran student population until the early 1990s. In 1993, only 20% of enrolled students were non-white or international. In 2011, TLU officially received HSI status when the Hispanic student enrollment grew to 25%. According to the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, in fall 2022, 42% of TLU’s students were Hispanic and 9% were African American, making those two groups the majority on campus. Dr. Ortiz sees the BUENOS Center as an excellent way to support all students.
“While enrollment of Hispanic students has steadily increased, their graduation rates still remain below the TLU average,” Dr. Ortiz said. “The BUENOS Center will not only meet the needs of a diverse student population, it will also serve the needs of every TLU student. Title V grants by their definition are designed to help schools like TLU build capacity throughout the university by creating an institutional rising tide that will lift all students to success.”
Other ways in which the grant will support multiple campus populations will be a focused workshop series called Platicas, the BUENOS Amigos and Mentors (BAM) mentoring program, and an overhauled New Student and Family Orientation experience. Additionally, the funding will allow for the creation of the Holistic Exploration of Careers by Hands-on Opportunity (HECHO) program. HECHO will be designed to ensure students’ career development experiences address personal exploration and experiential learning. Lastly, the grant will allow TLU to establish the Center for Information Equity and Learning Outcomes (CIELO) which will provide an equity lens for data collection, analysis, and programmatic recommendations.
“The award of the Title V grant is great news for Texas Lutheran University and the greater region,” said Congresswoman Monica De La Cruz (TX-15). “The grant's investment in student success will benefit a diverse group of students, many of whom are first-generation from Hispanic backgrounds. I am thrilled for the current and future students of TLU who will benefit from the grant both in attaining a college degree and career development."
Funding will also be designated to professional development for faculty and staff, a series of career and academic development workshops, externships for in-demand jobs, new technology for TLU’s library and Center for Teaching and Learning, and a Spanish for Heritage Speakers program.
The university would also like to acknowledge the work of the TLU grants team: Theresa Spiess ’06, director of corporate & foundation relations, Dr. Pamela Johnston, professor of English & director of academic grants, Jeff Jandt ’89, grant analyst, Alyssa Scheel ’11, Interim associate VP for finance/controller, Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Sarah Ferguson and Dr. Gourjoine Wade, and External Reviewer Alma Adamez, grant writer, Community Council of South Central Texas.