New Latin@ Center Will Turn Barriers into Bridges
By Margaret Chantung
Aptly coinciding with the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, hundreds of CSUSM students, faculty, staff and community members came together to celebrate the official ribbon cutting of the Cal State San Marcos Latin@ Center on Thursday, Sept. 17. The special event included a performance by the Grammy Award-winning musical group Quetzal as well as keynote remarks by Enrique Morones, founder of the non-profit organization Border Angels.
The Latin@ Center—spelled with an @ symbol to represent CSUSM’s commitment to inclusivity—joins a family of centers at the University that aim to create a welcoming and supportive environment for all students.
“Since its founding, Cal State San Marcos has aligned itself as a diverse, inclusive and socially responsible institution,” said Maria Mendoza-Bautista, who was hired to be the Center’s founding associate director in July. “The Latino Center represents the continued growth and evolution of these commitments, built on the foundation of many years of progress thanks to our designation as a federal Hispanic Serving Institution and our rising population of Latino and Hispanic students.”
Latino first-generation students face some of the biggest barriers to higher education. According to the The State of Higher Education in California – Latino Report, published in April 2015, California Latinos are underrepresented in every segment of higher education and have lower levels of college degree attainment than other racial/ethnic groups. On average, 31 percent of Californians have a bachelor’s degree while only 12 percent of Latinos in the state do.
The CSUSM Latin@ Center seeks to be the bridge that connects Latino students to academic support services while also increasing additional cultural awareness of the diversity within the Latino community through educational, cultural and social programming. The Center will offer mentoring, academic and graduate support, research and professional opportunities, workshops and training, student advocacy and more.
Mendoza-Bautista shared that the Center is already a huge hit. On the first day of operations, 120 students visited. On the second day, more than 300 came and it’s been a hub of activity and energy ever since.
“When we were designated as Hispanic Serving in 2010, 27 percent of our student body identified as Latino,” said CSUSM President Karen Haynes in her remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Today some 40 percent of you do! The Latino Center is an important new resource for CSUSM students and a new symbol of a University energized with Latino pride and empowerment.”
Visit the Latin@ Center online at www.csusm.edu/latinocenter or in person at the University Student Union, Room 3300.