UTEP announces new Institute for Hispanic Student Success


Alberto Silva Fernandez

Paydirt Pete holds a candle at the ceremony of life for Dr. Diana Natalicio on Oct. 27, 2021

Eduardo Flores, Contributor

UTEP President Emerita Diana Natalicio was remembered among her family, friends, coworkers and the UTEP family at the Centennial Plaza of the University of Texas at El Paso during a Celebration of Life ceremony Oct. 26.   

During the event, current UTEP president Heather Wilson announced the new establishment of the Diana Natalicio Institute for Hispanic Student Success to continue her legacy.  

“Dr. Natalicio was a leader of great conviction,” Wilson said. “She led a team of people who built a university that defined inclusive excellence for Texas and for the nation. We continue to build on that foundation today.”    

The announcement of the new Institute for Hispanic Student Success pleased the community and has received support from state education organizations.      

“The Diana Natalicio Institute for Hispanic Student Success will continue UTEP’s proud tradition as a Hispanic-serving institution. It will use research and evidence-based practices to develop future Hispanic and Latinx leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs,” according to a statement released by the UT System.  

Chancellor of The University of Texas System, James B. Milliken, posted on Twitter, “So excited about this new initiative with Diana’s name on it. The Chancellor’s Council made the first gift to support the institute, and there will be many more.”  

The UTEP family also expressed their opinions about Wilson’s announcement.  

“This institute will help cement UTEP as the leading Hispanic university in the nation. We will be hitting the fundraising trail soon to support this mission,” said Nick Popplewell, assistant vice president for principal gifts at UTEP Institutional Advancement.  

“Dr. Natalicio was an amazing role model and kept her commitment to the Hispanic students transforming UTEP to become a force among Hispanic Serving Institutions,” said UTEP alumna Valeria Martinez. 

Andrea Navarro, a 20-year-old psychology major at UTEP, also expressed her appreciation. 

“Dr. Natalicio was a great influence on many of us. I’m sure this institute will continue the legacy of Dr. Natalicio,” she said. 

In a 2019 interview with The Dallas Morning News, Natalicio discussed one of the motivations of her dedication to access to higher education.  

“One of the first data points that hit me was the disparity between the ethnic distribution of the El Paso population and the ethnic distribution of UTEP’s population,” she said. “And the disparity was not explainable by anything except opportunity shortage of students of Hispanic background, or Latino background.” 

Diana Natalicio was considered a pioneer in higher education among the community and praised for growing a small El Paso campus into a national research institution while expanding college access for Hispanics. The University of Texas at El Paso has stated that it looks forward to sharing more about the new major institute in the coming months. 

Eduardo Flores is a contributor and may be reached at [email protected]