CSUN plans construction of Hispanic-serving STEM center

Crystal Esquivel in the Chicano Lobby in Jerome Richfield Hall at CSUN on Sept. 20, 2022, in Northridge, Calif.

Jennifer Ramos, Reporter

CSUN’s planned $51 million technology hub, in collaboration with Apple and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, is expected to open in 2024, and its cultural significance has Hispanic STEM students waiting in anticipation.

The Global Hispanic Serving Institution Equity Innovation Hub will focus on student success in science, technology, engineering and math education for Hispanic students globally, while ensuring that graduating CSUN students are equipped with the skills and resources needed for careers in STEM.

Autodesk CEO and CSUN alumnus Andrew Anagnost gifted CSUN $1 million for a Center for Integrated Design and Advanced Manufacturing, prompting the EIH project that attracted Apple and the state of California.

Through $25 million in funding from the California state budget, and Apple, totaling $50 million, the innovation hub has become a project that can transform the STEM field for Hispanic students.

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla announced in October of last year that he secured over $254 million in federal funds to support HSIs, $1 million of which is earmarked specifically for the EIH.

Crystal Esquivel sits in one of the classrooms that have murals in Jerome Richfield Hall at CSUN on Sept. 20, 2022, in Northridge, Calif. (Sonia Gurrola)

With more than 53% of undergraduate students at CSUN identifying as Hispanic, the university is hoping more students will join the STEM field, taking advantage of the innovation hub.

“CSUN is excited to expand the scope of the project to include equity-centered programming that inspires students from historically underserved groups to pursue degrees and career pathways in STEM fields,” CSUN President Erika D. Beck said.

The EIH announced $1.8 million in HSI community grants in July 2022. The HSI community grants ranged from $50,000 to $150,000 and will be offered to students pursuing STEM careers.

Fernando A. Barajas, president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at CSUN, believes that the hub will unleash the true potential of many Hispanic individuals in the STEM field.

“The hub will truly be a great addition to the STEM community. I believe it will be well appreciated by the Hispanic community and it will give more than enough tools to those students to reveal and shine their fullest potential,” Barajas said.

The innovation hub being an inclusive project that welcomes all scholars piques the curiosity of students like Crystal Esquivel, an exploratory major at CSUN who plans to visit the hub once it opens.

Esquivel, who is taking a Chicano studies class, believes that organizations providing tools for Hispanic people impact other Hispanic students like her interested in getting more in tune with their culture.

Crystal Esquivel sits in one of the classrooms that have murals in Jerome Richfield Hall at CSUN on Sept. 20, 2022, in Northridge, Calif. (Sonia Gurrola)

“It kind of feels like we could be connected into our heritage … It would be impactful for everybody. I definitely would [visit the hub] and it being a project for everybody is actually really cool,” Esquivel said.

CSUN’s innovation hub will become revolutionary for many students — from students who are proud Hispanic immigrants making their mark in the STEM field like Barajas, to students like Esquivel looking to find more communities that embrace the Hispanic heritage.

“We have the opportunity to reframe the notion of authentically serving our richly diverse students through our faculty’s innovative programming … By doing so, we will empower students from Latinx, Black, APIDA, and Indigenous communities who have been historically underrepresented in higher education,” Beck said.