Catawba’s Unanue Scholars Program to target Latina juniors in Rowan-Salisbury Schools

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 14, 2019

Catawba College

Catawba College’s new Unanue Scholars Program is named to honor the memory of alumna Mary Ann Unanue, Class of 1981. Unanue rose through the ranks of Goya Foods Inc. to become vice president before her death in 2009 at the age of 49.

Beginning in the fall, Catawba will welcome a cohort of 16 Latina juniors from local public schools in part due to a grant from the Salisbury Community Foundation. Students will be enrolled in a course focused on exploring their own culture while receiving instruction in academic skills crucial for success at the college level.

“In the course Hispanics in the U.S., students will be able to read a variety of genres, such as memoir, poetry and essays, with the objective of not only honing skills necessary for college success but also gaining a better understanding and awareness of the complex aspects of the Latino immigrant experience,” said Professor Sonia Alvarez-Wilson.

To be eligible to participate, Latina juniors must be attending a public high school in Rowan County. Visit to learn more about the program and to apply. The deadline is March 15.

Students will be paired with mentors chosen from Catawba’s Latina population, who make up 56 percent of the college’s Hispanic population. Through group meals and field trips designed to advance social capital, the mentors will serve as role models and offer advice on the realities of campus life.

The course will meet from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays starting Aug. 21 and running through Dec. 4.

Associate Provost Forrest Anderson said the course will be free, count for college credit, and “show students that college is attainable and doable.”

Alvarez-Wilson agreed.

“Students will be able to see that, while their own lives are unique, they are also participating in a broader national Latino experience,” she said. “It is exciting to be a part of an effort to ensure that young Latina women have access to higher education and prospects for a promising future.”

Anderson, a veteran director of student success programs, will serve as the administrative lead of the Unanue Scholars Program. Steffanie West, admissions director, will coordinate with local high schools to recruit students.

Alvarez-Wilson will teach the students in SPAN 2051: Hispanics in the U.S. and guide student mentors.

Michael Bitzer, director of the Teaching and Learning Center, will provide the students direction in academic skills. Maria Vandergriff-Avery, honors director and an expert in first-generation student success, will provide guidance on enhancing the students’ social capital. Sheila Brownlow, first-year experience director, will assess and evaluate program outcomes.