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Chico State

National Honor Awarded to Chico State Program That Advances the Number of Latinx Students Earning Graduate Degrees

Three students laugh and smile as the walk down the promenade of campus.
Jason Halley / University Photographer

Participants of the the Graduate Equity Fellowship Program Emily Swanson, Tawny Bolinas, and Ashley Macias (left to right) talk on campus. (Jason Halley / University Photographer)

The Graduate Equity Fellowship Program (GEFP) at Chico State has been named a winner in the graduate category of the 2023 Examples of Excelencia by Excelencia in Education, the nation’s leading authority on efforts to accelerate Latinx student success in higher education. 

GEFP is just one of four programs out of more than 100 nominations to be honored. Its mission is to assist Latinx students in overcoming academic and social barriers to completing graduate degree programs at Chico State. Funded by the Office of Graduate Studies, the program offers two years of intensive faculty-mentored research assistance, writing workshops, doctoral program exploration, and application support to encourage Latinx students to apply to and successfully complete master’s programs. To minimize financial burdens, students are offered funding for two years to cover 100% of their tuition. 

“Obtaining a graduate degree opens up so many career opportunities that might not have been available to historically underserved students,” said Sharon Barrios. “Today’s recognition from Excelencia in Education is a testament to dedicated faculty who have provided countless hours of mentorship and, of course, the students themselves who have changed their lives through their hard work and put themselves in a position to change the world.” 

Since the program began in 1986, 93% of the program’s Latinx students have completed their master’s degrees. In the last 10 years (through fall 2022), 97% of Latinx Graduate Equity Fellows (32 participants) attained their master’s degree. 

The program has been an invaluable support system to current graduate student Tawny Bolinas as she pursues a Master of Science in Biological Sciences. Under the mentorship of Professor Gerald Cobián, her research in his lab specializes in fungal ecology. She is studying the roles of foliar fungal endophytes in leaf litter decomposition and their impact on carbon cycling.

“The Graduate Equity Fellowship Program has not only provided financial assistance but has also fostered a sense of belonging and inclusivity in the academic community,” said Bolinas. “Through mentorship, professional development opportunities, and a strong network of peers, the program allows students like me to gain the confidence and resources necessary to excel in my studies and research, making my graduate experience truly transformative and rewarding.”

Each year, Excelencia in Education shares Examples of Excelencia—initiatives driven by evidence-based practices that are closing equity gaps in higher education and the U.S. workforce. Recognized programs are assessed on the strength of innovative, intentional, culturally relevant and effective high-impact practices tailored to Latinx students and their communities. 

A Hispanic-Serving Institution since 2015, Chico State has invested in and been awarded grants for numerous programs to close equity gaps and support historically underserved students, especially those from Latinx backgrounds. In addition to the extensive work by the Graduation Initiative 2025 that is focused on undergraduate students, other programs include the Chico STEM Connections Collaborative, which provides hands-on research opportunities and mentorship; Adelante; and the Latinx Equity and Success Department. In fall 2024, a Latinx Affinity Center will open on campus to support student success.