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Villanova Named 2010 “University of the Year” by National Hispanic Institute (NHI)

NHI and Villanova partner to prepare high-ability Hispanic/Latino youth for higher education and community leadership roles

Partnership supports Villanova NHI Leadership Service Center and engages high-ability students in five countries, including the U.S., Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic

Villanova, Pa. – Villanova University has been recognized by the National Hispanic Institute (NHI) as the organization’s 2010 “University of the Year.” The University was honored for its “unparalleled commitment to developing driven, community-conscious leaders” at NHI’s annual awards dinner, “Celebracion,” Nov. 20 in San Antonio, Texas.  Stephen R. Merritt, Dean of Enrollment Management, accepted the award on behalf of the University. 

Since 2004, Villanova and NHI have partnered to engage high-ability Hispanic/Latino youth through the Villanova NHI Leadership Service Center on the campus of Villanova University. The establishment of the Villanova-NHI Leadership Service Center (LSC) in October 2004 has allowed the University to cultivate relationships with high-ability students through leadership and academic experiences that inspire community engagement, as well as the pursuit of higher education. This engagement begins as early as ninth grade and continues through students’ post-college adult lives. Seven years into this partnership, Villanova and NHI have established an active international presence to engage key sections of the Hispanic/Latino communities in five countries, including the U.S., Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

"In NHI’s 31-year history of work in the U.S. and abroad, no institution has committed the resources, support, and consistency of effort as Villanova University,” said Ernesto Nieto, President of the National Hispanic Institute. “No other college or university to date has developed an initiative similar to the endeavors undertaken at Villanova University via the Villanova NHI Leadership Service Center and its work beyond its gates to develop driven community conscious leaders.

“We are proud to name Villanova University the University of the Year as its unparalleled commitment distinguishes it as the only institution of higher learning of its kind,” added Nieto.

Villanova’s work with NHI began with the creation of the first Great Debate program for Hispanic/Latino ninth-grade students on the Villanova campus. This six-day event represented the first NHI program in the Northeast U.S., specifically designed to support the northeastern U.S. Hispanic/Latino communities.

Realizing that the effort to effectively cultivate a Hispanic/Latino youth leadership community in the northeastern U.S. would take an effort beyond just one program, Villanova and NHI established the LSC. Through this Center, Villanova and NHI build and develop opportunities for shaping future community leadership. The LSC provides Villanova with the opportunity to become intimately involved in the future of the Hispanic/Latino communities with which it is engaged. Villanova does so by immersing staff, students and alumni into these communities to establish an infrastructure and organize partnerships with community organizations, members, schools and businesses, to begin to identify future community conscious leaders as early as 14 years of age.

The Leadership Service Center also adds invaluable experiences such as leadership programming, work study, and volunteer and fellowship opportunities. The Center has developed a presence at Villanova that allows it to build a college student volunteer base, as well as hands-on leadership service and work-study programs.

The Villanova NHI partnership’s culminating event each year is the Great Debate program held in July at Villanova University. The Great Debate attracts approximately 150 high-achieving Hispanic/Latino high school students from over five different countries to campus to deliberate on topics concerning the Hispanic/Latino community.

Over the course of NHI’s 31-year history, it has had over 85,000 alumni, of which 98 percent have completed their four-year undergraduate careers in four to five years. In addition, 66 percent of those students have chosen to pursue graduate degrees. Villanova currently has several NHI alums enrolled as undergraduate or graduate students.

Villanova University, a co-educational Roman Catholic institution, was founded by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1842. A premier institution of higher education, Villanova provides a comprehensive education rooted in the liberal arts; a shared commitment to the Augustinian ideals of truth, unity and love; and a community dedicated to service to others. A wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered through the University’s four colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Nursing, as well as the Villanova School of Law. With a total enrollment that surpasses 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students, Villanova is the oldest and largest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.