Student Diversity Initiatives
Lupita Acosta-Roberts knows how important it is to reach out to potential Purdue students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Acosta-Roberts' father, a native of Mexico, was a first-generation high school and college graduate who always emphasized the importance education played in helping improve his life. Now, as student diversity initiatives director in the College of Liberal Arts, Acosta-Roberts works to ensure that today's underrepresented students have the resources and support they need to succeed.
How does your family history motivate you in your work with students?
In addition to his other achievements, my father was the first in the family to earn a doctoral degree -- he was an agricultural engineer with a Ph.D. in genetics and cytogenetics. For him, education was a way to access a better life, both for himself and for his family, for us. He was very successful, but I also remember hearing how difficult it was for him to navigate the path of getting his education.
For me, taking this job was a way to give back and mentor other students who might be experiencing those same difficulties. I want to ensure that everyone has equal access to education. Being a Purdue alumna -- I graduated with a bachelor's in psychology in 1997 -- I want to make sure everyone feels as welcome as I did and even more at home. I also want to continue the value of education legacy with students and within my own young family.
What else made you interested in becoming diversity director?
The diversity director's job became open in the summer of 2010, while I was working as an advisor for the School of Communication and Latin American and Latino studies students. A couple of colleagues encouraged me to apply. Also, around that time, I went to hear Susan Butler speak on campus while she was promoting her latest book. As an alumna and a former Purdue trustee -- and as the founder and chief executive officer of Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders -- she's a very inspiring figure.
During her speech, she encouraged women to take risks -- to take the next steps for gender equity. I found deep inspiration in her words. I decided to go ahead and apply for this position because I felt that it would be a challenge I was ready to meet. I also wanted to do it to honor my father, who passed away in 2007.
What are your day-to-day duties?
When recruitment season is upon the college, I make sure there is communication going out to underrepresented and first-generation students. I do presentations during recruitment programs, particularly for those that target underrepresented students, first-generation students and students in the Twenty-first Century Scholars Program, which helps Indiana families afford college educations for their children. There are a couple of programs with admissions that I coordinate, through collaboration with the student recruitment director here at the college, during the recruitment season. That period stretches from early fall until early spring.
As far as program development and management, this year will mark the inauguration of our CLAIM program, which I put together based on a pilot program from last year. CLAIM stands for College of Liberal Arts Inspiring Minds; it will take place July 15-18 here on campus. CLAIM is for high school juniors and seniors who want to learn more about the college. During the program, they'll stay in the residence halls, attend mock classes and visit the cultural centers here on campus. We hope to introduce the students to what the college offers and to show them the benefits of choosing a liberal arts degree.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? What's the most difficult?
To me, seeing families access their dreams of providing education for their children is incredibly rewarding. Consequently, seeing those students and families again when the students successfully complete their degrees is just as rewarding, because I've witnessed them coming full circle.
The most difficult aspects include helping students navigate the red tape often involved with achieving their goals. At the same time, they often become stronger once they've successfully completed those struggles, so oftentimes that difficult aspect turns into a positive one.
What long-term goals do you hope to accomplish with your work?
My goal is to keep striving to provide access and support to students, particularly around gender, race and ethnicity. I not only want to make sure all students have access to an education, but I want to take it a step further to make sure they feel comfortable seeking a degree. I want to help students develop holistically, so that they become better scholars -- and, ultimately, well-rounded global citizens.