Since UCF was designated a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) in 2019, the university has strived to elevate how it serves and supports its Hispanic/Latino/a/x students, which currently accounts for about 28% of the student body. Today, the university is being recognized nationally by an educational publication and a federal education bureau, validating the university’s intentional efforts to support Hispanic student success.

UCF is ranked No. 4 in the nation for conferring bachelor’s degrees to Hispanic/Latino/a/x, marking the third consecutive year the university has been recognized in the top 5 by Hispanic Outlook magazine. The ranking, which was released today and lists top-performing educational institutions, considers degrees awarded in the 2020-21 academic year. UCF is also ranked No. 12 for Hispanic enrollment among four-year schools and No. 21 for awarding master’s degrees to Hispanics. In 2020-21, UCF awarded 4,240 bachelor’s degrees and 563 master’s degrees to Hispanic students. During the same academic year, 27.8% of the student body identified as Hispanic/Latino/a/x.

This year, Hispanic Outlook also ranks UCF within the top 10 schools nationally across five degrees:

  • 4 for Visual and Performing Arts
  • 5 for Engineering
  • 7 for Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services
  • 7 for English Language and Literature/Letters
  • 8 for Legal Professions and Studies

UCF encourages Hispanic students to engage with academic-based opportunities that connect them to their cultural backgrounds. This includes funding students’ involvement with the HSI Battle of the Brains — a week-long networking event that matches students at HSIs to opportunities in the industry and includes a 24-hour hackathon/business plan competition, which a team of UCF students won in March. UCF also offers a Latinx Leadership track within LEAD Scholars, a selective two-year leadership development program for undergraduate students.

“We know that these types of co-curricular experiences have a positive impact on students and make earning a degree that much more meaningful,” says Cyndia Muñiz ’13EdD, UCF’s director of HSI Culture and Partnerships. “We will continue to create spaces where students can lean into their cultural assets as they prepare for their respective career fields.”

Today, UCF is also recognized as an HSI Fulbright Leader for the second year in a row by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). This designation recognizes the noteworthy engagement that selected HSIs have achieved with the prestigious Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. A total of 43 institutions have received this designation for the 2021-22 academic year. In 2021, UCF was named a top producer of Fulbright Students by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Being named a Fulbright HSI Leader again is a testament to the community that UCF faculty and staff foster on campus and has led to us endorsing the highest number of applicants for this U.S. Fulbright Student Grantee cycle,” says Morgan Bauer, UCF’s director for the Office of Prestigious Awards. “We are so excited for all applicants who decide to pursue the amazing opportunity that Fulbright provides.”

UCF is committed to fostering a culturally responsive learning community and facilitating experiences for individuals to broaden their worldview. Engagement in the Fulbright Program allows Knights — including five students and alums and three faculty selected earlier this year — to participate in cultural exchange and international networking opportunities through education, field work, research and daily routines. Through UCF’s own Study Abroad program, the university provides several experiences for students, including those of Hispanic backgrounds, to learn and be immersed in the culture of Latin American countries such as Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica and Perú. The inaugural Study Abroad program at the UCF Barcelona Center for International Experiences also launched earlier this year.

Providing a spectrum of opportunities for Hispanic students to explore their interests and enhance their knowledge and skills are crucial elements of a meaningful college experience that foster students’ ability to make an impact in the real world. To elevate UCF’s ability to do this, this fall Amazon awarded the university more than $88,000 to support HSI initiatives and the Vamos Knights fund, which provides scholarship and fellowship opportunities for students, as well as faculty and staff with the resources necessary to better serve students through research activity and other professional development programs.

Part of Amazon’s generous investment will directly fund scholarships, micro-grants and paid internships that benefit Hispanic students. Another portion will fund professional development opportunities and conferences, with an intentional emphasis on increasing Hispanic representation in the computer science and tech field. This includes support for UCF’s chapter of the student organization Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. Amazon’s emphasize on bolstering Hispanic representation in computer science and tech fields builds on a U.S. National Science Foundation effort UCF joined last year to increase the number Latinos in computing — as well as the No. 7 ranking UCF received from Hispanic Outlook this year for computing-related degrees.

Amazon’s funding will also be used for HSI-sponsored programming research and events that celebrate Hispanic backgrounds, such as HSI Week activities, the Latinx Leadership course, and an  Amazon Leadership Series. The series included a fireside chat with Latinos at Amazon this fall and will feature a half-day of workshops on tech and non-tech roles, imposter syndrome, and other talks for engineering and business students in the spring.

Earlier this year UCF joined a national alliance of more than a dozen HSI R1 (very high research activity institutions, designated by the Carnegie Classification) universities to double the number of Hispanic doctoral students and increase the number of Hispanic faculty at member institutions by 20%.

Last year, UCF was one of 10 institutions awarded the Seal of Excelencia from Excelencia in Education, the nation’s premier authority on efforts accelerating Latino student success in higher education. The honor, which a total 30 institutions have earned, signifies evidence of effective and intentional institutional practices that serve Latino students; positive momentum for Latino students’ progress; and a dedication to transform the institution into an environment where Latino students can thrive.