By: Verónica Gutiérrez, MBA’22, Dominican University, River Forest IL and Marcela Reales Visbal, Activity Director for Title V, Part B – Promoting Post-Baccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans, Dominican University, River Forest IL
“I had never heard of the term HSI until I came to Dominican University,” said Verónica Gutiérrez, a first-generation Latina who grew up in one of Chicago’s northwest suburbs and recently obtained his Masters in Business Administration from the Dominican Republic.
Dominican University is one of 30 Hispanic-serving institutions in Illinois and one of 15 that offer graduate programs.1 While most HSIs are concentrated in the Southwestern United States, Puerto Rico and New York, Dominican proudly serves the Latin community of the Midwest. The school is considered Chicago’s First Catholic HSI.
Like Verónica, many Dominican students are first-generation students and from historically marginalized communities in the Chicago metro area. With Latino students making up 20% of undergraduate students in the United States, being intentional about serving this subset of the population is crucial.2
How? By building on student strengths and providing tools and resources to help them succeed.
Since fall 2017, Dominican University has been awarded Title V and Title III scholarships aimed at increasing success for Latino and low-income students. These resources expand and enhance academic offerings, academic support services for undergraduate and graduate students, professional and career preparation, and extracurricular offerings such as a financial wellness program. They also help campus faculty and staff become more culturally inclusive through their work and teaching practices.
“When I arrived in the Dominican Republic, the focus was on student welfare,” Verónica said. “It felt like a lot of the professors, like business professor Molly Burke, were generally very interested and concerned about how the students were doing, offering academic support and connecting us to people and resources.”
While pursuing her MBA, Verónica served as a graduate assistant for the Financial Wellness Program. The program, led by Ramiro Atristaín Carrión, provides students with financial literacy workshops, financial counseling, undergraduate internships and community volunteer opportunities. The assistantship gave Verónica the opportunity to deepen her knowledge of financial literacy, mentor undergraduate students and learn project management skills.
This experience led her to pursue her current career as a consultant for higher education: “As a first-generation student, I always find it useful that institutions offer tools and resources that empower students, that whether through experiential opportunities like internships or graduate assistantships, this will provide much-needed experiences for many of our students,” she said.
Verónica has always been committed to mentoring and advocating for her community.
“Growing up, I had very supportive teachers who always believed in my potential, so I believed I could accomplish anything I set my mind to,” she said. “I would also say that the representation Is question. Ramiro was in investment banking, and I had never met anyone from Latin America who was in investment banking, so this was the first time I walked into the room and thought that everything was possible!
“We can’t be what we can’t see,” actor and social justice advocate Michael K. Williams wrote in his posthumous memoir.3
Providing a variety of tools and opportunities for our students to see beyond what they know and succeed in their endeavors is essential to helping them be the best possible version of themselves.
1excellence in education: Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI): 2020-2021
3Williams, Michael Kenneth and Jon Sternfeld. Scenes from my life: a memoir. Crown, 2022.
Veronica Gutierrez currently works for a consulting firm in Chicago. She graduated debt-free by applying the personal finance concepts taught by Ramiro J. Atristaín-Carrión in the program. Verónica believes in empowering individuals by equipping them with the knowledge, tools and skills they need to succeed. Her future goal is to launch a financial education program to empower women and other first-generation students.