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Weber State University to develop degrees, certificates taught in Spanish

By Rob Nielsen - | Apr 8, 2024

Rob Nielsen, Standard-Examiner

The Weber State University campus in Ogden is pictured Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023.

OGDEN — Weber State University is launching a sweeping program in the hope of building a stronger bilingual workforce.

The university announced last month it is aiming to develop a program that will offer certificates and degrees through classes taught entirely in Spanish.

Known as the Building Puentes program, the effort was made possible in large part thanks to a $2.5 million grant from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, according to a press release.

“The Building Puentes program will offer ‘stackable credentials’ — courses designed to build on each other so that a certificate could count toward an associate’s degree, which could then count toward a bachelor’s degree in the same area of study,” the release said.

While officials are hoping to get the ball rolling on the program this fall, Bryan Magaña, WSU public relations director, told the Standard-Examiner that the program will start out slowly and grow incrementally in the coming years.

“We want to start small with a handful of classes taught in Spanish,” he said. “They’ll all be online. We hope to announce those classes soon, in time for folks to sign up for fall semester.

“Within a couple years, we want to add more online classes that meet the requirements for a certificate of proficiency in key areas of study. By 2028 and beyond, our hope is to offer associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in those same areas of study. Hence, ‘stackable credentials’ — classes that build on each other. It’s a big goal, but one we’re going to work hard to achieve, especially since it aligns with our goal to become an emerging Hispanic-Serving Institution.”

To meet the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Weber State must achieve at least 25% of total enrollment by Latino students. The designation opens the door to various federal programs and grants.

According to Magaña, the idea for the Building Puentes program was developed as a way of better serving a growing demographic of the Ogden area.

“Thirty percent of Ogden’s population identifies as Hispanic and Latino, and many speak Spanish as their first or primary language,” he said. “We see this as an opportunity to get people into Weber State who might not have considered college before, perhaps due to language barriers. I’ve already received so many calls and emails from people who want to be part of this, so it just reaffirms the need, and it’s an opportunity for Weber State to meet that need, to meet people where they are. That’s always our goal.”

“College can be intimidating for a lot of people, so we’re hoping this program removes one more barrier,” Magaña added. “We’re hoping a lot of folks will feel more confident pursuing higher education when the classes are taught in Spanish and are available online.”

Magaña said the program also benefits Spanish-speaking students through the incorporation of English as a second language courses, giving them a chance to broaden their communication skills.

“We really want to set them up for success getting plugged into Utah’s workforce,” he said. “Being bilingual is a huge benefit in today’s workforce, especially as Utah’s Hispanic and Latino populations continue to grow.”

At this time, which classes and how many degrees/certificates will be taught in Spanish have yet to be announced. WSU’s press release also noted that the university will add additional bilingual academic advisors and tutors as the program grows along with awarding additional scholarships for course materials and necessary technology.


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