UAlbany Earns ‘Seal of Excelencia’ for Latina and Latino Student Success

An image celebrating the 'Seal of Excelencia' that includes the UAlbany Minerva logo and the text: "2022-2025 Seal of Excelencia Certified Institution'

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 30, 2022) — The University at Albany today was granted the prestigious Seal of Excelencia, a rigorous certification of the University’s data-driven approach to ensuring Latina and Latino students are supported and thriving academically.

The announcement was made in Washington, D.C., by Excelencia in Education, marking the first time the educational nonprofit has granted the certification to a New York college or university and making UAlbany the first SUNY campus and the first Research 1 institution in the Northeast to receive it. Mercy College in Westchester County and four other institutions also received the Seal for the first time Friday. Just 30 campuses nationwide have earned it.

​ A crowd shot of UAlbany graduates in black graduate robes and mortar board caps celebrating Commencement with their arms raised in the air.

“New York State is strongest when we celebrate the diversity within our communities and guarantee that all people have the opportunity to successfully achieve a high-quality education,” said SUNY Interim Chancellor Deborah F. Stanley. “I respect and admire Dr. Havidán Rodríguez for his inspiring commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. It is this commitment that drives everything he and his team do to help each student with enriching academic programs, extensive support services and state-of-the-art facilities. My congratulations to President Rodríguez and the entire UAlbany family for earning this exceptional honor.”

“Being selected as a recipient of the Seal of Excelencia represents a highly significant validation of UAlbany’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” said University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez. “This prestigious designation is powerful evidence that we are not only successfully serving students from underrepresented backgrounds — we are also accelerating our progress toward our vision to be the nation’s leading diverse public research university. I am deeply grateful to the President’s Advisory Committee for Latina and Latino Student Success, and to the entire campus community for helping ensure that every UAlbany student has access to an excellent education and the life-changing opportunities it provides.”

Excelencia, the nation’s leading authority on accelerating Latina and Latino student success in higher education, developed the Seal to incentivize colleges and universities to push beyond simply enrolling Latina and Latino students to ensure they are intentionally serving them through data, practice and leadership.

'Intentionality and impact'

Excelencia in Education created the Seal of Excelencia to differentiate institutions that became Hispanic-Serving Institutions because of demography and geography from those that are Hispanic-Serving because of intentionality and impact,” said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO of Excelencia. “The Seal provides a road map for all institutions, led by data, practice, and leadership, that does not end with the certification. It supports a path to intentionally making progress in serving Latino students.”   

Combined, the 30 Seal-certified institutions enrolled 13 percent and graduated 14 percent of all Latinos in the U.S. for the most recent year.

“We are animated by the positive and engaged responses to the Seal of Excelencia by many people and institutions,” said Excelencia co-founder and President Sarita Brown. “We launched the Seal in 2018 because, after years of offering information and evidence-based tactics and strategies to support colleges and universities, we saw a slow response to the vibrant and growing Latino student population. Excelencia has 18 years of experience and know-how to support institutions and their leaders who are ready to transform to serve Latino students. We recognized Excelencia could do more to support these institutions and that together we would move faster.”

In addition to UAlbany and Mercy, San Antonio College, Texas State University, the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of California, Santa Cruz were all newly certified Friday. Fifteen other campuses received re-certification.

Record representation on campus

The three-year certification comes as UAlbany welcomed a freshmen class this fall that is 21.4 percent Hispanic or Latino/a, the largest share in the University’s history and up from 13.6 percent in 2012. Overall, a record 45 percent of first-time incoming UAlbany freshmen this year identify as coming from groups historically underrepresented in higher education, the most among SUNY’s University Centers. About a third of the students in UAlbany’s Class of 2022 were the first in their family to attend college.

The Seal is not a ranking or award. To obtain certification, the University needed to demonstrate that its programming to serve Latina and Latino students was intentional, effective and supported by data collection on outcomes.

Among the highlights:

  • Retention and graduation rates among Latina and Latino students in UAlbany’s Educational Opportunity Program that exceed those of non-EOP students and non-Latino EOP students
  • A 30+ percent increase from 2015-17 in Latina and Latino enrollment in UAlbany’s high-impact Living-Learning Communities accompanied by higher GPAs, retention and graduation rates
  • Nearly doubling Latina and Latino representation in UAlbany’s Honors College from 2014-17, with Latino Honors students demonstrating higher retention and graduation rates
  • Developing freshman seminar/experience courses that have disproportionately enrolled Latina and Latino students, accompanied by higher retention and graduation rates
  • Implementation of an advanced academic monitoring and early warning system empowering Student Success Teams to timely intervene at signs of academic distress in all students

A campus-wide effort

UAlbany’s Seal application was compiled by the President’s Advisory Committee for Latina and Latino Student Success. The committee, which had nearly two dozen members from across campus, was convened by Vice President for Government and Community Relations Sheila Seery and chaired by Gilbert Valverde, dean and vice provost of the Center for International Education and Global Strategy (CIEGS).

“Our committee is extremely proud that UAlbany has earned the Seal,” Valverde said. “Measuring ourselves against the high standards of Excelencia allows UAlbany to grow in service not only to our Latina and Latino students from the U.S. and from abroad but to build and expand robust, evidence-backed systems that help every UAlbany student succeed.”

UAlbany’s EOP program, one of the largest and most well-regarded within SUNY, was previously recognized as an “Example of Excelencia” finalist in 2020 for being an exemplar of strategies that advance equity for Latina and Latino students.

The Seal certification, meanwhile, is just the latest in a string of accomplishments that reflect UAlbany’s commitment to serving underrepresented students.

Academic success and social mobility

This summer UAlbany was selected to lead a $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (SUNY LSAMP) program aimed at increasing participation by underrepresented students in STEM disciplines. UAlbany also has been repeatedly recognized by The Education Trust as a national leader both in the representation and success of Black and Latino students on campus — and by numerous organizations, including U.S. News & World Report and the Washington, D.C., think tank Third Way, as a top performer in the social and economic mobility of its students.

The University also is home to numerous vibrant Hispanic and Latino student organizations, including Fuerza Latina, which for 50 years has provided Latino and Latina UAlbany students with an extensive network of service and support.

UAlbany’s commitment to serving Latino and Latina students reflects the broader changing demographics of New York and the Capital Region. Latinos are among the fastest-growing demographics in the Albany area, and as an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution, the University continues to play an important role in the growth of this vibrant community.  

About the University at Albany:

A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral and graduate certificate programs. As a Carnegie-classified R1 institution, signifying the highest level of doctoral and research activity, UAlbany is a leader among New York colleges and universities in diverse fields like atmospheric and environmental sciences, businesseducation, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informaticspublic administration, social welfare and sociology, taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.

About Excelencia in Education:

Excelencia in Education accelerates Latino student success in higher education by promoting Latino student achievement, conducting analysis to inform educational policies, advancing institutional practices, and collaborating with those committed and ready to meet the mission. Launched in 2004 in the nation’s capital, Excelencia has established a network of results-oriented educators and policymakers to address the U.S. economy’s needs for a highly educated workforce and engaged civic leaders. For more information, visit: