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Felicitaciones, Graduado

Cristian Gutierrez BS ’19 recalls his father’s joy during a special graduation ceremony in April. Weber State’s Office of Access & Diversity and the student chapter of MEChA hosted the inaugural Latinx/Raza Graduation Ceremony, celebrating the achievements of Latinx members of the Class of 2019. Out of the 50 students who took part, most, including Gutierrez, were the first in their families to earn a college degree.

Enrique Romo, WSU’s assistant vice president for Student Affairs, was the event’s keynote speaker, sharing his experiences of pursuing a Ph.D. despite feeling disenfranchised as a Latino growing up in Texas. Romo and other speakers intentionally switched between English and Spanish during the ceremony, according to Gutierrez, since many parents were listening in Spanish and many students were only fluent in English.

“My dad has never been able to fully appreciate graduation ceremonies,” Gutierrez said. “He’ll pick up a word or two, but only takes in 10 to 20% of the ceremony.” However, that wasn’t the case at the spring ceremony.

“My father walked away from this event rejoicing. He felt like the ceremony was meant for him,” said Gutierrez, who grew up in Ogden after his parents emigrated from El Salvador. “There is only one commencement. Attempting to translate the commencement to one language is a daunting task, let alone translating to every language spoken on our campus,” Gutierrez said, noting he’s had classmates from Korea, China and Saudi Arabia. “That’s what makes this ceremony so important. It was a moment for people to come together and take part in an event with cultural roots.”

The ceremony included traditional folk dancers from Mexico and Bolivia, student speakers from Mexico and Panama, as well as Brazilian influences. “When you are a first-generation Latinx student, these things are important. That’s my blood, my people, my culture,” said Gutierrez, who helped plan the event.

Each graduate was given 30 seconds to say a few words. Some thanked event organizers. Others used the opportunity to encourage their children to follow in their footsteps and earn a college diploma. Based on the inaugural success, organizers plan for the event to become an annual tradition, with more students participating.

Gutierrez acknowledges that people grow as part of the college experience. He arrived at WSU with an academic scholarship, intending to become an engineer. Along the way, he worked for Boys and Girls Club of Weber-Davis and discovered his passion for helping youth.

Having earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Gutierrez is deciding whether he wants to work with incarcerated youth or as a high school counselor. He is considering getting a master’s degree in counseling. In the meantime, he is assisting first-generation DACA and undocumented youth with how to pursue higher education.  

“Everyone says they want to change the world,” Gutierrez said. “I think people confuse that thought with having to do something globally, but you can change the world in your own backyard.”

Making Quantitative Literacy Work

With many students struggling with math, finding the best way to help them fulfill their quantitative literacy (QL) requirements at Weber State has been a challenging equation to solve.

While Eric Amsel, associate provost for academic programs and assessment, said he had noticed many Weber State programs and initiatives working to support QL success, they weren’t necessarily sending students a consistent message.

So, two years ago, Amsel and then WSU College of Science Dean David Matty formed a quantitative
literary task force with staff and faculty from departments across campus. The group set out to answer one question: “What can we do together to make QL work?”

One solution was strengthening success in Math 1030, a QL course for students seeking non-STEM-related degrees.

In response, WSU launched a five-credit, five-day-per-week experimental course called Co-Requisite Contemporary Mathematics that fulfilled the same QL requirement as Math 1030 during the 2018–19 academic year. Two groups of students attended the course: those from Wildcat Scholars, a retention program for students who are at risk of feeling alienated at the university; and students who only had their QL requirements to finish for graduation.

“The combination was really fun,” said Cora Neal, assistant professor of mathematics, who instructed the course with Lorraine Gale, concurrent enrollment coordinator. “They were willing to talk to each other, to talk to us, to help each other; we were really this collective group trying to succeed together.”

The class focused on solving real-life math problems. Students used math techniques to determine which ketchup bottle was the best value, or the impact of paying extra money on a car loan. These practical problems introduced math concepts that could be generalized to a wide variety of situations.

Students in the course attended an hour of tutoring each week, while the class’s Wildcat Scholars fulfilled additional community service duties by tutoring others.

Co-Requisite Contemporary Mathematics has been offered again for the 2019–20 academic year as a six-credit course with three sections.

Changes were also made to math courses offered through Weber State’s concurrent enrollment program, which trains local high school teachers to teach college-level courses and offers their students college credit while they are attending high school.

In past years, high schools put more emphasis on Math 1050, with the impression that students would be prepared for any major they enter.

Currently, Weber State offers concurrent enrollment Math 1030 courses in 19 schools, including those in Davis, Ogden, Weber and Morgan school districts.

“The push for 1030 is because not everybody needs 1050,” said Gale, whose daily work involves educating high schools about QL requirements for different areas of study. “Almost 65% of the WSU class of 2015–16 could have fulfilled QL with 1030.”

Co-Requisite Contemporary Mathematics Success:


Students in the course during the 2018–19 year


Passing rate for the class


Number of unofficial withdrawals from the course

Wildcats Supporting Wildcats

Mental health is one of the greatest concerns for college students across the U.S. To help students help each other, WSU’s Counseling & Psychological Services Center created the Wildcat Support Network.

WSU received a $300,000 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services grant to fund the program designed to create student-facilitated support groups. Students who participate will learn about mental health disorders, suicide prevention, substance abuse and available resources on campus and in the community in order to serve effectively as peer advocates.

Golden Anniversaries

It was a golden year for two groups designed to empower underrepresented populations at Weber State.

The Black Scholars United club, which celebrated its 50th anniversary throughout the 2018–19 academic year, promotes leadership, higher learning and education for black students, along with hosting community service projects and activities.

“Black Scholars United is more than a club; it’s a community,” said JaLisa Lee, 2018–19 club president. “We promote unity among black students through cultural understanding, academic excellence, community involvement, student engagement and leadership.”

During its 50th anniversary, the American Indian Council (AIC) hosted its inaugural Native American College Prep and Scholarship Night at Weber State University Davis in October. Partnering with local school districts, the event encouraged Native American high school students to consider post-secondary education.

Providing Native American students with connections and a sense of community is the primary focus of the AIC, says advisor Tashina Barber BA/BA ’14. She first discovered the value of the council while serving as a student member of the group in 2012.

“Being part of AIC provides a sense of belonging and it instills confidence,” Barber said. “It helped me connect with other groups on campus and prepared me to further my education in graduate school.”


Number of community service hours provided by BSU over the past 10 years


Number of Native American students at WSU