Celebrating César Chávez Day: 10 MSIs offering Chicanx and Latin American Studies

by Carol Sandoval

César Chávez was one of the most enduring activists of the Chicano civil rights movements as he fought for farm workers’ rights in the 1960s and ’70s. In 2014, Obama proclaimed March 31st as César Chávez Day, a federal commemorative holiday. In today’s Monday Morning MSI Line Up, we recognize MSIs offering Chicanx studies and other similar courses that teach students about Mexican-American history, including Chávez’s political and social changes. Check out the following courses, majors, and minors at these Minority Serving Institutions!

1) Aims Community College (HSI)—Introduction to Chicano Studies

Aims Community College offers the introduction course to Chicanx studies which focuses on “Chican[x] history, migration and labor, education, law and Chican[x] culture”

2) Barry University (HSI)—Latino(a) Literature

Barry University offers a class that studies the “poetic and narrative works representing distinct Latinx groups based on their history, migratory experience, and cultural diversity. Issues such as race, class, and gender, as well as ethnic and national identity, are thoroughly examined.”

3) Morehouse College (HBCU)—Latin American Studies

Morehouse College offers the Latin American studies minor which is composed of a total of 6 courses. Three of those six are classes regarding “politics of a particular cultural region or minority in the United States” while the rest of the courses are language requirements.

4) University of Hawaii at Manoa (AANAPISI/AANH)—Latin American and Iberian Studies

Classes within the Latin American and Iberian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa extend beyond the typical history and language classes. Students at UHM approach the topic of Latin American studies from many different angles such as film, ritual, and gender studies.

5) Morgan State University (HBCU)—Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Morgan State University offers the Latin American and Caribbean Studies minor, in which students are immersed in a rich history of the colonization of the Americas.

6) California State University, Monterey Bay (HSI)—Chicano Studies as a Minor

Students graduating with the Chicanx Studies major are encouraged to strive for the creation of positive changes in social justice among their communities and their research.

7) Pueblo Community College (HSI)—Chicanxs in a Changing Society

This course teaches the students the background and history of Chicanxs in the US. Additionally, it also tries to explain the differences that are occurring throughout the years as “Chican[x] communities interrelate with Anglo and multicultural societies as well as its future prospects”

8) Talladega College (HBCU)—Latin American History Survey

In order to appreciate Chicanx history in the US, it’s crucial that students are familiar with the history beyond the 1960s. At Talladega College, they ensure that students have a strong grasp on the major events in Latin American history.

9) Alabama State University (HBCU)—Hispanic Novel and Hispanic Drama

The two courses at Alabama State University are more exciting ways of understanding the struggles of Chicanxs in America during the 20th century.

10) Luna Community College (HSI)—Hispanics in the Southwest

This history course at Luna Community College provides cultural, economic, political, and social context to general US history.

Know how other Minority Serving Institutions and Hispanic Serving Institutions are celebrating César Chávez Day? Let us know in the comments below!

9 Famous Poets from MSIs

by Aisha Bowen

Poetry is known as the art form of expression and March 21st is unofficially known as World Poetry Day. There are hundreds of phenomenal poets who hail from MSIs and whose work has changed the world of poetry as we know it today. Thus, today’s Monday Morning Line Up highlights 9 poets who come from MSIs.

1) Sherley Anne Williams: California State University, Fresno(AANAPISI/HSI)—Fresno, CA

Sherley Anne Williams (1944-1999)

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Sherley Anne Williams is a famous writer of literary criticism, children’s books, and poetry. She is originally from Fresno, California and earned her BA in English from Fresno State College. She was awarded the African American Literature and Culture Society’s Stephen Henderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature and Poetry. One of her most famous works, The Peacock Poems (1975), addresses single motherhood, the lives of African American women, and the blues.

For more information, click here.


2) Amiri Baraka: Howard University (HBCU)—Washington, D.C. 

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Amiri Baraka was a famous scholar, poet and civil rights activist. Baraka graduated from Howard University in 1954, where he earned his B.A. in English. His most known works include his first published volume of poetry, Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note, in 1961 and Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing, which he co-edited with Larry Neal in 1968. He also produced a number of plays centered on civil rights. Two of Baraka’s plays that spoke out against police brutality were: Police and Arm Yrself or Harm Yrself.

For more information, click here.

3) Claude McKay: Tuskegee University (HBCU)—Tuskegee, AL 

Claude McKay (1889-1948)


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Claude McKay was a famous poet, writer, playwright, and prominent figure during the Harlem Renaissance literary movement. While McKay has a wide range of published works, all of his work centers on his “disdain for racism and the sense that bigotry’s implicit stupidity renders its adherents pitiable as well as loathsome.” McKay began his undergraduate studies at Tuskegee University (then known at Tuskegee Institute) (HBCU) and finished his degree at Kansas State College.

4) Robert Creeley: University of New Mexico (HSI)—Albuquerque, NM

Robert Creeley (1926-2005)

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Robert Creeley is widely known as one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. One critic said his of poetry: “The much imitated, often diluted minimalism, the compression of emotion into verse in which scarcely a syllable is wasted, has decisively marked a generation of poets.” Creeley received an M.A. from University of New Mexico in 1960 (HSI). He is well known for his affiliation with “Black Mountain Poets,” a group of writers in the ’50s who were connected with Black Mountain College, “an experimental, communal college in North Carolina that was a haven for many innovative writers and artists of the period.

For more information, click here.


5) Alice Walker: Spelman College (HBCU)—Atlanta, GA

Alice Walker (1944-   )

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Alice Walker is one of the most famous symbols for “Womanism” in history. Her poetry and novels such as The Color Purple speaks to the woman’s experience more broadly and includes race and culture, class, gender, and a number of other intersectional identities. Walker began her studies and journey as a writer in 1961 at Spelman College (HBCU). Soon after beginning Spelman , she took time off from school to join the civil rights movement. Later, in 1963, she decided to continue her education at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

For more information, click here.


6) Jack Agüeros: Brooklyn College (AANAPISI)— Brooklyn, NY

Jack Agüeros (1934-2014)

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Jack Agüeros is poet, writer and community activist whose work “deals with the complexities, challenges, and struggles of the Puerto Rican experience in America.” Agüeros is originally from East Harlem, NY, and he received his B.A. in English literature with a minor in speech and theatre from CUNY Brooklyn College (AANAPISI). Some of his most famous work includes: Lord, Is This a Psalm? (2002), Sonnets from the Puerto Rican (1996), and Correspondence Between the Stonehaulers (1991).

For more information, click here.

7) Richard Blanco: Florida International University (HSI)—Miami, FL

Richard Blanco (1968- )



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Richard Blanco is a Cuban poet, teacher, and speaker, who moved to the U.S. before the age of 1. Blanco was raised in Miami, FL, and went on to earn a BS in civil engineering and an MFA in creative writing from Florida International University (HSI). Some of Blanco’s most famous poetry collections include: City of a Hundred Fires (1998), recipient of the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize; Boston Strong (2013); and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey (2013). Out of all of the Presidential Inaugural Poets, Blanco was the first Latino, immigrant, and openly gay writer, as well as the youngest recipient.



8) Joy Harjo: Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture—Santa Fe, NM (TCU)

Joy Harjo (1951-     )



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Joy Harjo is a famous Native American poet, writer, and musician from Tulsa, OK, and a member of the Mvskoke Nation. Harjo has seven published poetry books, which have won multiple awards. Her love for the arts began at a young age, when she became a student of Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture (TCU) at age 16. She also attended the University of New Mexico (HSI) to receive an art degree. Her poetry centers on the Native American experience and has garnered honors including the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas; and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.

For more information, click here and here.


9) Sheryl Luna: University of Texas at El Paso (HSI)—El Paso, TX

Sheryl Luna (1965-   )


Sheryl Luna

Sheryl Luna is from El Paso, TX, and received her MFA from the University of Texas at El Paso (HSI). Luna’s most famous work, Pity the Drowned Horses (2004), focuses on cultural identity, barriers, and bridges between the U.S. and Mexico. Luna’s work has won the first Andres Montoya Poetry Prize, sponsored by the Institute of Latino Studies and the Creative Writing program at the University of Notre Dame. Pity the Drowned Horses was also a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Colorado Book Awards.

For more information, click here.

How will you be celebrating World Poetry Day? Did we miss any of your favorite poets? 

5 MSIs Leading the Way in Mathematics

By Jillian Cener

In honor of Pi Day tomorrow (3/14), today’s Monday Morning MSI Line Up showcases five MSIs who are leading the way in the field of mathematics. Each of the institutions listed below have received grants from the National Science Foundation to fund projects aimed at increasing diversity in the field of math. Congratulations to all of the institutions! Great job!

1) University of Hawaii at Hilo (ANNH) – Hilo, HI


The University of Hawaii at Hilo received a $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for its Pacific Undergraduate Research Experience in Mathematics (PURE Math) program. The program aims to increase opportunities for native Pacific Islanders who want to study mathematical sciences by supporting novice faculty members at the institution. At least 114 STEM undergraduates at UHH will benefit from the NSF’s grant.

2) Morehouse College (HBCU) – Atlanta, GA


Morehouse College received a $362,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for its Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) program. The program aims to increase the number of women, especially women from underrepresented groups, who receive a PhD in the mathematical sciences, as well as support women in leadership positions in the field. The grant will help PhD students at various points in their degree and provide funding for postdocs and novice faculty members.

3) University of New Mexico (HSI) – Albuquerque, NM


The University of New Mexico received a grant of over $1,000,000 from the National Science Foundation for its Mentoring Through Critical Points in the Mathematical Sciences (MCTP) program. The goal of the program is three-fold: to support students studying mathematics, to develop mathematics education, and to build community. The program aims to help undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs in a variety of ways.

4) University of Texas at Arlington (AANAPISI/HSI) – Arlington, TX


The University of Texas at Arlington received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for its three-year bridge program. The program aims to help 30 students from underrepresented backgrounds transition to PhD programs in the mathematical sciences. Students will benefit from mentoring programs with both faculty and peers.

5) California State University, Channel Islands (HSI) – Camarillo, CA


California State University, Channel Islands received a $280,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for its Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. The program aims to support 27 students from underrepresented backgrounds as they conduct mathematical research. The institution aims to have a diverse group of students, including native Spanish speakers and first-generation students.

Thanks for reading! We’d love to hear about other MSIs doing great things for math in the comments below!

Happy 150th Birthday, Howard University!: 8 Notable H-U Alum

By Tania Irwin

Don’t we all love birthdays? This past week, one MSI had a special birthday: Howard University. Celebrating its sesquicentennial (150th) birthday, Howard University was founded March 2, 1867. Although it was not the first, Howard is known as the Grand Central for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and a strong advocate of African American Education.

Howard is a private research university with 13 colleges and schools. Students can take classes in more than 120 areas and pursue undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. Since its beginnings, Howard has awarded more than 120,000 degrees and is still known as the top producer of African American undergraduate degree holders who go on to earn doctoral degrees in science and engineering. In honor of Howard’s 150th birthday, today’s Monday Morning MSI Line Up features some of the HBCU’s most prominent alums:

1) Thurgood Marshall – Civil Rights Activist, Supreme Court Justice, Judge, Lawyer


Thurgood Marshall studied law at Howard University. In 1954, Marshall was a front-runner in the termination of legal racial segregation in public schools, which was a direct result of his Brown v. Board of Education case win. In 1967, Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court, where he served for 24 years. Thurgood Marshall stands alongside men like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. To date, he is still considered one of the greatest figures of the American Civil Rights Movement.

2) Zora Neale Hurston – Author, Civil Rights Activist


Zora Neale Hurston is considered one of the foremost writers of African American literature. Hurston was prominent during the Harlem Renaissance and has greatly influenced other famous black writers. While studying at Howard, she co-founded the university’s student newspaper. She is most known for her 1937 fictional masterpiece, Their Eyes Were Watching God. In 2005, this book was made into a movie starring Halle Berry and Michael Eley. Alice Walker, another famous black writer, wrote about Hurston in a 1975 essay titled In Search of Zora Neale Hurston. This essay is said to have re-introduced Hurston to a new generation of readers and encouraged the re-printing of Hurston’s work.

3) Debbie Allen – Theater Actress, Film Actress, Choreographer, Television Actress


Debbie Allen graduated from Howard University after studying Greek literature, theater, and speech. She first hit it big in 1980, after she starred in a Broadway revival of West Side Story. Her performance as Anita landed her a role as a dance instructor in the movie Fame. Allen graciously stepped behind the camera in 1988 to direct and produce a The Cosby Show spinoff and thanks to Allen, A Different World maintained high ratings until its finale in 1993. In 2001, Allen opened the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles. Since then, she has occasionally popped out from behind the cameras with cameos in various  TV shows, like the sitcom In the House and ABC drama Grey’s Anatomy.

4) Roberta Flack – Singer & Song Writer


Classically trained on the piano, Flack was known for her musical gift at a young age.At the mere age of 15, Roberta Flack received a music scholarship to attend Howard University. She was later discovered while singing at a DC nightclub and immediately signed to Atlantic Records. Flack was the first and is still the only solo artist to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year consecutively. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face won in 1973 followed by Killing Me Softly with His Song in 1974. She is still known internationally as one of the greatest songstresses of all time.

5) Ossie Davis – Civil Rights Activist, Actor, Director, Playwright


Ossie Davis is known all throughout Hollywood for his unique acting ability. The highlights of his career include roles in Spike Lee’s popular films: Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever. Davis was one of a handful of African American actors able to find commercial success while avoiding stereotypical roles prior to 1970. In 1948, Davis married actress Ruby Dee. Davis and Dee are both known for being instrumental in the organization of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Fun Fact: Ossie Davis delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Malcolm X.

6) Toni Morrison –Editor, Writer, Playwright, Literary Critic


Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Toni Morrison had a passion for literature at a young age. She read a lot as a child and found joy in her father’s stories featuring African-American traditions and culture. This storytelling tradition became a key element in her own writing. At Howard University, Morrison continued to pursue her interest in literature. She majored in English with a minor in classics. After graduating from Howard in 1953, Morrison continued her education at Cornell University. She returned to Howard University to teach English in 1957. Among her best known novels are The Bluest Eye, SulaSong of SolomonBeloved, JazzLove, and A Mercy. Morrison received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, becoming the first African-American woman to be selected for the award.

7) Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs – Music Mogul


Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs is known throughout the world as a rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, record producer, and entrepreneur. After two years as a business major at Howard University in 1990, he dropped out and became an intern at New York’s Uptown Records. Since then he has created his own record label, Bad Boy Records, and is responsible for the successful careers of many hip hop and r&b artists. Combs is also known for fashion with clothing lines like Sean John and Rocawear. Constantly dabbling in different ventures, Combs may even become the first Hip Hop Billionaire. Recently, Combs agreed to help develop the Cîroc vodka brand and now has a major equity stake in Revolt TV.

8) Taraji P. Henson – Actress


Henson spent her first year in college at another MSI, North Carolina A&T State University, where she studied Electrical Engineering. After failing a pre-calculus course, she transferred to Howard University, where she majored in Theater.When Henson was in her junior year of college, she found out she was pregnant. She asked her professors to treat her like every other student and she graduated in 1995 with a son, Marcell. She began her Hollywood career in guest-roles on several television shows before making her breakthrough in 2001 with the movie Baby Boy. Since then, she has dominated the movie scene, was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, and has released a New York Times bestseller, Around the Way Girl.

Know more famous Howard University alumni? Share in the comments below!