LU Hispanic Mentors Program: ‘We hope Hispanic students from all walks of life see themselves in us’

Hispanic Heritage Month is an international celebration held from Sept. 15-Oct. 15. This month, we’ve highlighted faculty, staff and students regarding what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them.

In this Q&A, LU Hispanic Mentor, Lamar University Dean of Students and Associate Vice President of the Division of Student Engagement Dr. Hector Flores explains how the LU Hispanic Mentors program helps to enrich and support the lives of Hispanic and Latino students.

Q: What is the LU Hispanic Mentors program? 
A: The LU Hispanic Mentors are a group of Hispanic and Latino professionals comprised of faculty, staff, alums and community leaders. We established this group to provide support, mentorship and guidance for current and potential Hispanic and Latino students seeking to improve their lives through education.  

Q: What is the mission? 
A: The LU Hispanic Mentors advocate and support Lamar University's efforts toward becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution. As a team of professionals, we strive to bring awareness and appreciation to our cultural, ethnic, and societal contributions as Hispanic and Latino people. Dr. Hector Flores

Q: Can you tell me a bit about its background? 
A: The LU Hispanic Mentors are different than most college mentoring programs. My goal was to ensure we are not just focused on academics, which are important, but also on the individual student and their culture. I want students to see themselves in us, so they know they can make it to higher levels professionally and educationally — we often serve as their reflection. 
Hispanics and Latinos tend to have tight-knit families and communities, so we wanted to start working on these types of connections at Lamar University. By establishing a mentor group comprised of various professionals, we provide our students with a networking system they can build on during their college years. We hope they feel comfortable contacting any mentor anytime for resources and advice. The LU Hispanic Mentors are always here to help our students succeed.  

Q: What was the impetus for starting the program?  
A: The LU Hispanic Mentors were organized earlier this year to work alongside and support the LU Hispanic Society (LUHS) student organization, which is now the largest student group on Lamar University's campus. The mentors attend LUHS events, contribute toward the sense of a Hispanic community on campus and offer experience and wisdom to the next generation of Hispanic students coming into college who will eventually join the workforce as professionals.  

Q: Did you see a need for this kind of program at LU? 
A: Yes, definitely! Lamar University has a substantial Hispanic population. Having faculty, staff and community members involved in our student's success is essential to our community's growth at Lamar. It is vital for potential new students and their families to know their students will be accepted into our LU community and supported along the way. As mentors, we speak with parents and students about our personal experiences and how they can overcome obstacles and problems. These types of programs are critical for Hispanic and Latino student success.   

Q: What are the criteria to be a mentor? How are they chosen? 
A: To become a LU Hispanic Mentor, we ask that you visit our website and become familiar with who we are and what we do. You can then email and let us know you are interested in joining. We require a resume, letter of interest, biography and photograph for review. Mentors are selected for their educational, professional and community engagement backgrounds. We want a holistic group of professionals our students can look to for support and resources on and off campus. 

Q: What are the criteria to be a mentee? How are they chosen? 
A: All LU students can reach out to our mentors for support, guidance, and advice. There are no restrictions or selections–we foster a community philosophy. 

Q: What does a typical mentor/mentee interaction or relationship look like? 
A: A typical mentor/mentee interaction varies based on the student's needs. For example, a student may just be homesick and need someone to talk to, or they may need advice on academic resources. We also support and encourage the LU Hispanic Society to facilitate professional development and panels. Students helping students is a huge part of the LU Hispanic Society, too!  

Q: What does success in the program look like? 
A: Primarily, we see success in the ways we create a community for our students to thrive. Laying the foundation and providing a support network are our most significant achievements. This is important and especially true for our culture. Secondly, we want to see students matriculate and leave Lamar University with a sense of accomplishment and the tools to navigate life successfully. We want their parents to be proud of their achievements because it does take a family to get them through–we can be their LU family away from home. 

Q: Why is the LU Hispanic Mentors program important? 
A: All groups deserve to see themselves reflected in the leadership and campus community. As mentors and leaders, we hope Hispanic students from all walks of life see themselves in us.   

Q: How does it benefit mentees?  
A: The mentees create a bond and a sense of community. The biggest takeaway is their ability to have a network throughout Lamar University and Southeast Texas. 

Q: What is the benefit to mentors in turn? 
A: Mentors volunteer to serve, but they, too, become part of a stronger Hispanic community. 

Q: Do you expect growth in this program in the next few years? 
A: As the Hispanic population continues to grow in the United States and Texas, we will see increases in our Hispanic student demographics. The LU Hispanic Society is now the largest student organization at LU, and I expect this number to grow each year. In addition, the LU Hispanic Mentors are excellent avenues to bridge the cultural gaps in areas where students may not expect Latinos to excel. Growth is not our primary goal, the quality of engagement and helping Hispanic students succeed in life is what we strive to achieve with our program. 

Q: What does the future look like for this program? 
A: I would like to expand the program to encompass more mentors in education, philanthropy, professional fields and add more business owners. We are currently working on creating more opportunities for engagement. For example, our LU Hispanic Tailgating Fiestas for all football home games, and the LU Hispanic Society and Mentors' mixer, which was held Wednesday, Sept. 28. These types of events are focused on bringing together students, employees and community members to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month.