Director of URL to stay permanently

By Gg Levine

After a national search, George Gutierrez, acting director of University Resources for Latinos at NIU since July, 1987, has been named to the position on a permanent basis.

He said the recent appointment changes his job by means of assuring him he will continue to work, giving him “more initiative and ambition to try new things,” and also is “good for the students to know I will continue to be there.”

Gutierrez‘ objectives for URL, which is funded by the university, include a budget expansion in order to accommodate almost three times the number of incoming Hispanic freshmen as compared to recent years.

He said the last budget analysis was made in 1985, and recruitment of Hispanic students has increased greatly in the last few years, bringing in an expected 200 to 250 new Hispanic students this year. About 560 Hispanic students enrolled at NIU last year and “we work with the total group,” he said.

Gutierrez said he wants to “increase our potential to bring more (Hispanic) students to Northern,” and added, “We would like to provide more supportive services. We want them to have a good experience (at NIU).”

URL provides assistance not only in academic areas, but also in cultural and financial aspects, Gutierrez said.

This fall, Gutierrez and four graduate students will host a Welcome Week for Latino students during the first week of classes, and will continue to work with the students through the semester, helping them adjust to university life, “assuring them we are here to help them.

The group’s plans include ensuring new students have class schedules that are not too heavy and that fit in with their experience and abilities, and referring students to special services related to their academic fields, he said.

Gutierrez said he also “would like to have a program coordinator, who would deal with the cultural and social aspects of the organization. That means another salary that I don’t have in my budget.”

He said he also will request a full-time counselor to work with the students, which would require yet another salary. “They (incoming Latino students) need a contact,” he said, explaining that research has shown the need for counselors. “CHANCE (Complete Help and Assistance Necessary for a College Education) has a lot of counselors. We don’t have any.”

His duties also will incorporate “external aspects of the group” which include going to community colleges and high schools, informing Hispanic students of opportunities for them at NIU, he said.

During his term as acting director of URL, Gutierrez conducted research on Latino student retention and discovered the reasons students discontinue their college educations is “about 50-50” between financial and sociological difficulties. “We’re going to work for better retention,” he said. Currently, the approximate retention rate lies in the “upper-20th percentile,” he said.

Gutierrez said Latino students might find the transition of leaving home and going away to college more traumatic than other students because, “The Spanish home is a more restrictive type of home, (and students are likely to feel that) ‘for the first time I am alone.'” He said the group “lets them know there are another 500 (Latino) students who have gone through the same thing” and tries to “cushion their difficulties and apprehensions.”

He said the largest problem Latino students speak of in terms of adjusting to NIU is their perception of instructors’ non-caring attitudes toward them. He said he does not know, but plans to determine whether this perception is truth.

Gutierrez, a native of Peru, received an undergraduate degree in language and literature from the Colegio Nacional Leoncio Prado in Huanico, Peru. At NIU, he also earned a master’s degree in history and a certificate of advanced studies in secondary professional education, and completed doctoral coursework in counseling and secondary education.