Marilyn Moya’s passion for her job stems from a special connection she holds with the Office for Hispanic Initiatives. She herself was a first-generation college student who received her undergraduate at Montclair State University and is now currently enrolled in a graduate program.
“When I was a student at Montclair State University in the nineties, it was predominately a white institution,” Moya said. “We were not a Hispanic serving institution yet. To me, representation is important from my own personal experience, when I went to school, I didn’t have people who looked like me or spoke Spanish.”
That is why Moya is now with the Office for Hispanic Initiatives. The office aims to make the college experiences as enjoyable and fruitful as possible for Latino students. It also works to spread knowledge about the Hispanic community in New Jersey and beyond.
Most students are not aware that Montclair State has an Office of Hispanic Initiatives. The office is led by two key figures: Moya, the office’s administrative assistant, and the head of the office Dr. Katia Paz Goldfarb, Associate Provost for Hispanic Initiatives and International Programs.
During Moya’s time at Montclair State, there was no Hispanic Initiatives office to support her through her undergraduate. Supporting the Latino community here on campus is a very personal mission for Moya because she and others within the office want to do for Latino students what they wish someone had done for them.
Moya pointed out that although there have been improvements, there is still room to grow.
“Although representation on campus has changed, we could do better with staff and faculty representation,” Moya said. “I think it is important for students to see people of color so that they can have that comfort level or cultural connection that adds to that feeling of ‘familia’ and understanding.”
Within the Office of Hispanic Initiatives, Moya is more involved with maintaining student belonging, while Goldfarb focuses on a grander scale of providing resources and academic support to the Latino faculty and students on campus.
Among some of the roles Moya takes on is handling all the office operations with Goldfarb and student workers and serving as the event coordinator.
For example, Moya takes charge of planning most of the events going on during Hispanic Heritage Month like Latinx panel discussions and the annual Hispanic block party.
In addition to her role in creating these events on campus. Moya is involved with certain programs the Hispanic Initiative Office offers, such as the Hispanic Student College Institute (HSCI), a pre-college program for rising high school juniors and seniors to get a glimpse of life on campus and help them with the transition into college. As well as the Hispanic Latino Alumni Network (HLAN), the first Latinx alumni network Montclair State has ever had. It is an outreach program to connect former students with current students and faculty.
A large part of what the Hispanic Initiatives office does is to make sure that the Latino population is not just enrolling, but staying and are finishing their degrees.
According to a study done by Pew Research Center taken in Oct. of 2022 about Hispanic enrollment in college, “between 2000 and 2020, the number of Latinos enrolled at four-year institutions jumped from 620,000 to 2.4 million, a 287% increase. By comparison, overall student enrollment at four-year institutions in the U.S. grew by 50% during this time.”
Montclair State became a Hispanic-serving institution in 2016. To be considered an HSI, 25% or more students enrolled in the incoming class need to identify as Hispanic or Latinx. Since 2016 the percentage of Latino students enrolled in Montclair State has only risen. This incoming class of 2023 is the biggest enrollment of Latinx and Hispanic students ever seen at about 44% of the incoming class.
Although enrollment within the Latino community is on the rise, that doesn’t mean that financial and personal problems don’t have any effect.
This is where Goldfarb’s role comes to fruition. These initiatives made by the Office of Hispanic Initiatives to give the Latino community support are how can we keep that percentage rising.
Goldfarb shared what she thinks about the most when it comes to the Latino student population.
“My main concern with the students is the intersection between being a Latino student and first generation,” Goldfarb said. “Within the Latin population, we have a large group of first-generation students, always.”
She also spoke about how Latino representation is inspirational for other Latino students.
“We all know representation matters,” Goldfarb said. “It is in research from preschool to a work environment. Representation for students to see others who have the same history as them, and to be able to look where they are, what they are doing, [it makes us realize] we can do it too.”
Goldfarb emphasized this point further.
“It is important because they need to see us in these higher positions,” Goldfarb said. “Not only in the workforce outside of higher education, but within as staff members and especially in an administrative position.”
To get in contact with the Office for Hispanic Initiatives, students can call (973) 655-7489 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.