New Latina dean hopes to help the University of Utah in efforts to become Hispanic serving institution

Oct 3, 2022, 6:38 PM | Updated: 7:04 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — One of Utah’s largest universities has plans to become a Hispanic Serving Institution, the first of its kind here in the Beehive State.

Martell Teasley serves as the interim senior vice president of academics for the University of Utah and is at the forefront of the university’s efforts.

“We’re mindful of the changing demographic landscape of Utah–we welcome that, and we have open doors,” Teasley said.

To become a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), the university must have at least 25 percent of its full-time undergraduate enrollment be Hispanic students.

The enrollment for Hispanic students has reached 15% at the U of U, and Teasley said they expect that to increase in the next four to five years.

“We’ve got some work to do to get there, but that is something we continuously pay attention to,” Teasley said.

According to the Utah State Board of Education, around 18 percent of enrolled K-12 students across the state are Hispanic. Teasley said he hopes these students will consider continuing their education at the University of Utah, and they’re preparing for that.

“That will mean actually having more Latinx teachers in the classroom, and many of them that can speak both Spanish as well as English,” Teasley said.

As a part of their efforts, the University of Utah hired a new dean. Michelle Camacho is the first Latina Dean for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Camacho is a first-generation American. Her story begins with her mother emigrating from Bolivia to Chicago, where Camacho was born.

Not long afterward, Camacho, her mother, and her sister moved in with her grandparents living in California.

“Even though financially, with a single mom and a younger sister, there was always warm food, good music, and joy at my grandparent’s home,” Camacho said.

Camacho’s grandmother taught her to dance, value education, and work hard.

She was just 15 years old when Camacho worked at a donut shop in Orange County.

“It was one of many early jobs that I had as a young girl,” said Camacho. “At a very young age, I started to develop empathy for people who had life circumstances that were much more difficult than what I was seeing.”

That was the beginning of Camacho’s love for social sciences. After graduating high school at the age of 17, Camacho went on to study communications and eventually earned her Ph.D.

“I really thought this would be an opportunity for me,” said Camacho. “If I could go to graduate school, I could one day be a professor, mentor students, teach about community issues, and engage in a more meaningful way with underserved communities.”

It was during this time that Camacho met her husband, the love of her life.

The two connected through their similarities in upbringing – during high school, her husband lived in a friend’s trailer while his parents went through a divorce.

“I felt like in my home, we were always hungry, and so, I carried that resentment for a long time,” said Camacho. “I asked my husband, ‘how can you be so warm and open and loving?’ And he said, ‘I have my life, and we have our family, and we’re doing the best we can.’ That time has passed, and he’s just forgiven.”

Those are just one of the lessons Camacho has learned from her partner in life.

Now, three kids later, Camacho and her husband find themselves in Utah.

Mary Ann Villarreal, the Vice President of the University of Utah Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion team, said her focus has been bringing in faculty like Dean Camacho to help students feel represented.

“When we talk about belonging and inclusivity, where do students see themselves around different parts of campus?” said Villarreal. “Not only in leadership like Dean Camacho but in just everyday visibility.”

One of the most impactful questions Camacho was asked while interviewing with the U of U was if she would be interested in helping the university emerge as an HSI.

“That was one of the questions that opened my heart and made me think this is the kind of place where I can bring the talents, but more importantly, the values that I have spent a lifetime honing in,” said Camacho.

Camacho’s goals include expanding partnerships with Salt Lake City Community College, shortening the time it takes to get a degree in hopes of decreasing student debt, and building up the University of Utah’s vision for a campus in West Valley City.

Camacho hopes within her position, she can empower and support students.

“When you’re first generation, you really think that your kind of in it alone, and what I realized is that everybody does it with a little bit of help,” said Camacho. “It’s in the absence of support that I think that our students struggle.”

The University of Utah also assembled its first Hispanic Serving Task Force as a way to increase inclusion resources.

KSL 5 TV Live

Education & Schools

Utah State University's "Cow to Cone" event allow for people to see how ice cream is made. (Utah St...

Mike Anderson

Utah State University’s ‘Cow to Cone’ event shows the process of how ice cream is made

Utah State University held its first ever "Cow to Cone" event on Friday. It's an opportunity for people to see how ice cream is made.

5 days ago

FILE — Blake Anderson (KSL TV)...

Larry D. Curtis

USU to move forward with firing of coach Blake Anderson

Utah State University notified Blake Anderson Thursday that it is moving forward with his termination as head coach of its football team.

6 days ago

Major changes are coming to the ACT college admissions exam in the spring, the CEO of ACT announced...

Nic F. Anderson and Jason Hanna, CNN

Changes coming to ACT exam, including the science portion being made optional

Major changes are coming to the ACT college admissions exam in the spring, the CEO of ACT announced Monday.

8 days ago

Utah's Winter Sports School, located in Park City educates student-athletes during the summer month...

Karah Brackin

Winter Sports School in Park City helps student-athletes pursue academics, sport

Winter Sports School in Park City designed to bridge the best of both worlds — academic and sports — at the highest level.

9 days ago

The BYU Rocketry Team took home three awards at the 2024 Spaceport America Cup in New Mexico. (Brig...

Emma Benson

BYU Rocketry Team blasts off at intercollegiate competition

The BYU Rocketry Team took home three awards at the 2024 Spaceport America Cup in New Mexico.

11 days ago

FILE - In this May 13, 2018, file photo, new graduates walk into the High Point Solutions Stadium b...

Jocelyn Gecker, Associated Press

Is college worth it? Poll finds only 36% of Americans have confidence in higher education

A new poll finds Americans are increasingly skeptical about the value and cost of college. More than two-thirds of adults surveyed in the poll released Monday by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation say they feel the U.S. higher education system is headed in the "wrong direction."

16 days ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

New Latina dean hopes to help the University of Utah in efforts to become Hispanic serving institution