Davenport University launches one-of-a-kind bilingual program

Davenport University hosted a news conference on its Grand Rapids W.A. Lettinga Campus March 5, 2024, to officially launch Casa Latina. This groundbreaking initiative leads to bilingual degrees and professional proficiency in English and Spanish. Casa Latina is the only program in the nation with courses designed to be taught one week fully in English and the next week fully in Spanish. There are 12 undergraduate and graduate degrees within Casa Latina at Davenport, offering career paths in business, technology, health care, urban education and the sciences.

President Richard J. Pappas opened the event by stating Casa Latina represents a new era in higher education. He said Latinos are the fastest-growing population in the country, but the least represented in higher education.

“And you know who’s at fault? Higher education,” Pappas said. “Because we haven’t responded like we should have, and that day is changing. Universities often expect Latinos to adapt to our culture, to what we do. And what we said at Davenport is, ‘what culture would be most successful for you?’ And that’s what we’ve been changing. I’m so proud of this program and the work that went into it.”

Degree programs include accounting, business administration, education, human resource management, health services administration and technology project management. Students can apply now for courses beginning in fall 2024.

Executive Director of Casa Latina Carlos Sanchez said the purpose of the program is quite simple.

“We need an educated community, and we need a Latino community that is well educated,” Sanchez explained. “When we were developing Casa Latina and researching the population, we found three main reasons Latinos were not in higher education. One is financial, and that mirrors other communities. The second reason is they felt their English wasn’t good enough, and the third is they did not see themselves in higher education. So we developed Casa Latina to address all those issues.”

The Casa Latina program is fully online, so it is available to students worldwide. Scholarships are available for full-time students: $9,200 for undergraduates and $5,000 for graduate students. Part-time students will be awarded a prorated amount. The program offers bilingual and bicultural student support in admissions, financial aid, counseling, tutoring and library services. Another key component of the program is that Davenport staff will consider work experience and education credits students have obtained inside or outside of the United States, reducing the time it takes to earn a degree. 

The public launch of Casa Latina brought together leaders of three chambers of commerce. Mark Moreno is the executive director of the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He said the hundreds of businesses the chamber serves are looking for great talent equipped with skill sets to drive economic growth.

“A good number of those businesses have national and international operations and revenue in the billions of dollars spanning across many different industries,” said Moreno. “Those businesses are seeking to employ talent that can help them not only address current needs but future needs going forward.

“This initiative is open to all lovers of the Spanish language who are able to capitalize on the program’s offerings to steer their trajectory going forward. Thanks to Davenport for raising the bar. This investment in bilingual students in the Spanish language is something that is not only needed but long overdue.”

Guillermo Cisneros, who is the president and CEO, West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the Latino community is projected to grow by 130% by 2045.

“As we think of the future of talent, as we think of a regional economy, as we think of getting the next generation of Latino business owners and Latino entrepreneurs prepared, this program that Davenport University has put together is going to be a game changer, not just to this region, but to our state, and at a national level,” said Cisneros. “The opportunities we have, if we train this next generation of Latinos, are endless. As we continue to see our economy grow, we need to make sure that we continue to invest in organizations and schools and institutions like Davenport University that are setting the standard and setting the foundation for the future in this region. Thank you so much for this brave initiative.”

Also speaking at the event was Omar Cuevas, senior vice president of Investor Relations at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. He called Casa Latina a significant milestone for the university and the entire community.

“Casa Latina epitomizes our shared commitment to maximizing the economic potential of new Americans in our community,” said Cuevas. “ By providing not only accessible, but high-quality education in their native language, Davenport is opening doors to new opportunities, fostering economic empowerment and enhancing the vibrancy of our workforce.”

Cuevas pointed out that Casa Latina also offers a beacon for those students who have spent their primary years of education in Spanish immersion programs.

The philanthropic community has so far contributed $2.7 million to Casa Latina at Davenport University. Foundations and donors giving to Casa Latina include:

  • Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
  • M.E. Davenport Foundation
  • Daniel & Pamella DeVos Foundation
  • Frey Foundation
  • Steelcase Foundation
  • Steve and Tana Wessell

Those interested in supporting Casa Latina can find more here. Casa Latina has an advisory board to ensure integration into the community with opportunities for networking and internships. 

For more information about Casa Latina at Davenport University, visit https://www.davenport.edu/casa-latina.

To hear soundbites in Spanish from the news conference, click here. 

To hear soundbites in English from the news conference, click here.

To watch the news conference, click here.


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