The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Study: Latino students perform better with close ties to faculty

While all students can benefit from close faculty ties, Latino students majoring in science, math and technology perform better and are more likely to stay in that field when they have close faculty ties.

The results come from a study published by the USC Rossier School of Education.

“The purpose of our study was to find what factors influenced the academic performance of Latino students and we found that it was strong faculty interactions,” said co-author Araceli Espinoza.

In 2006 the National Science Foundation found that of the 436,372 bachelor’s degrees awarded in science and engineering to permanent residents and US citizens, only 7.3 percent were earned by Latinos while white students earned 65.1 percent.

By 2050 Latinos will constitute 24.4 percent of the population, making them the largest minority in the nation according to the US Census.

For Jose Castanon, a senior math major and a supplemental instructor in the math department, his encouragement in math came early on from his ninth grade math teacher who noticed his interest in math and guided him on his way to college.

“She made it fun, she made it interesting and she was approachable,” Castanon said.

He admits that while math is hard, there are several ways to make it fun and interesting. Castanon tries to do the same with the math 102 students he tutors and hopes to apply what he learns here to the math classes he hopes to teach in the future.

“A lot of Latinos don’t have the same resources as other people or encouragement,” Castanon said, who is the first person in his family to attend college. “So it’s important for professors to be approachable.”

Castanon recognizes that he has been lucky and not many students have the kinds of relationships he’s had with his professors.

“It’s a problem because some professors don’t care if a student is successful. All they care about is whether students enroll in their class,” Castanon said.

The study also found that the high school GPA of Latino students fueled their interests in math and sciences. Of the 146 Latino students who filled out surveys nationwide in 1999 and then again as seniors in 2003, close faculty relationship was the major factor in succeeding in the STEM fields.

“It doesn’t take much, things like being available after class or during office hours can make substantive difference,” said co-author Darnell Cole.

“When faculty interact with students their support and encouragement goes a long way in helping students realize their academic goals,” Cole said.

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