Opened in late 2019, and quickly moving to virtual because of the pandemic, not many were familiar with the Latinx Resource Center – one of UCI’s newest centers. As a Hispanic-Serving Institution for five years, and a steady growth in UCI’s Latino student population over the past decade – not to mention throughout the state of California – the time was right to dedicate a center where students can build community, while accessing programs and resources that celebrate their heritage. On the UCI Podcast, Latinx Resource Center director adelí durón shares insights into how students can effectively use and engage with the center, as well as shares some big plans for the future.
To get the latest episodes of the UCI Podcast delivered automatically, subscribe at:
From the University of California Irvine, this is the UCI Podcast. I’m Sheri Ledbetter. Thank you for joining me for this episode. We’re going to learn about UCI’s newest center the Latinx Resource Center. UCI has been a Hispanic Serving Institution for five years. This designation from the Department of Education means among other things that fully one quarter of our undergraduate student body identifies as Latino. This commitment to diversity aligns with our aspiration to be a national leader and global model of inclusive excellence. Opening in late 2019, the Latinx Resource Center only had a couple months’ time in person before the pandemic hit, and the campus went remote. While the Latinx Resource Center continued to provide services and programming virtually, it was not widely known, and we’re here to change that. Today on the UCI Podcast, we’ve invited the director of the Latinx Resource Center, adelí durón.
adelí is an Anteater through and through. She is an alumna of UCI and has been with the university for 17 years. Prior to becoming the inaugural director of UCI’s Latinx Resource Center, she was the inaugural director of UCI’s Veterans Resource Center. She has some big plans, which we are excited to share with you. Welcome, adelí.
Thank you so much, Sheri, for inviting me today. I’m really excited to share more about what the Latinx Resource Center has been doing and what we have plans to do.
Great. So let me just start with a few data points here. So, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state has had tremendous growth in the Latino population in the past decade from about 13% of Californians to 39%, nearly 40%. And UCI’s enrollment of students who identify as Hispanic has grown steadily over the past decade, as well, from roughly 4,000 students to 7,000. And this is exceptional growth that reflects the state. Why do you think the time was right to open the Latinx Resource Center in 2019?
You know, it’s really because of students. It’s through student advocacy that many of the resource centers here on campus exist. The students had been organizing a committee, they had a petition. They were really working hard to make sure that the center could exist. And through that advocacy led to a class that I had the pleasure of co-teaching. And in that class, students did all this research about other Latinx Chicano Raza resource centers across the state of California. And that’s what led to the best practices that our center is currently implementing. Through that class, they participated in creating the proposal and, with that proposal, they also had a committee that was putting pieces of the proposal. And so, between the two groups of students, the proposal came together and that’s what eventually went to the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs to propose the resource center. It’s really, you know, students wanted to build more community and wanted to see more programs that they identified with, where they felt community, especially as the population of the Chicano/Latino, population is growing, they felt that even though we have a higher percentage here on our campus, they still felt that they didn’t see it. And so, with the center, they were hoping that this is an opportunity to finally see it on their campus.
That’s amazing. I love that, that it’s really, it was a student led initiative. That’s great. I see on your website it talks about the mission of the resource center is the empowerment of Chicano and Latino students through awareness of social, political, economic, historical, and cultural realities of these communities, and that you provide resources, programs in a space for connection. And I’d like to see if you could tell us about some of the services and programs provided by the Latinx Resource Center.
You know, one of the things that students had really advocated for was wanting to do tutoring for students. And so, we know that tutoring is exclusive LARC, but you know, we wanted to provide some kind of services. So, we have a program called Mermeladas de Estudio, which is just a play on words, a literal translation of study jams and really focusing on math two A and two B, and we’ve expanded to five A and five B, really with the help of Professor Bob Pelayo who really wanted to be able to do this and give back to students and offer free study jam sessions for students. And then what we’ve been able to do in the last couple of years is expand that and offer free tutoring for all levels of math through UCI Cal Teach.
So, UCI Cal Teach tutors that they hire are offering services to our students, and so we direct them there. So that was a big program that students wanted to see to really help students that are in the STEM field. One of our other big programs that we’ve been doing is having – there’s a course that is an intro level course that Student Life and Leadership does, called Thrive. They have about 12 sections. And the Latinx Resource Center has actively been marketing one of those sessions that we teach. And so, it’s a 1.3 unit class. It’s an intro class for first year students. We highly recommend that all first-year students do some kind of intro level course because it’s through those courses that they really get an opportunity to find the resources on campus and have a small scale cohort in their discussion in that form.
So those are kind of the two like academic programs that I like to focus on. But in terms of our kind of social cultural programs, we offer this at the beginning of the school year during Welcome week, we offer La Bienvenida, and it’s a program that’s been going on for many years. It was a student run initiative out of MEChA de UCI that’s been on this campus for almost, I think over 30 years. And so over time it was a program that was inherited through Mesa Unida that functioned as an organization and then inherited to us as the resource center. And really because of the advocacy of students who were running the student organization, Mesa Unida. And so La Bienvenida is an opportunity for student Chicano Latino identified organizations and other departments to do tabling.
We have Ballet Folklorico come and perform, and then we have a keynote address by a dean or administrator on campus or faculty member. So, this year it’s on Friday, September 23rd. And, we’re really excited to be hosting it again. We’ve also been collaborating with MEChA for the Dia de los Difuntos this year, and so also known as Dia de los Muertos. Difuntos is something that’s used more broadly throughout Central and South America, and so because of that we’ve adopted the Dia de los Difuntos instead, to kind of bring inclusivity to our population. And so that’ll be out – is always out in the UCI flag poles, the admin loop area. And so that’s just a cultural celebration where we give out free food, have performances, the student organizations have an opportunity to table, and we do a cultural altar, or altar, where we pay tribute to those who’ve come before us who are deceased. So, I think I’ll stop there. <laugh>, those are just like three or four of our kind of main programs.
That’s great. And I thank you for leading off with the academic pieces that you offer because I don’t think I had that in my list. And so, that’s really a full-service center. You’re operating here with lots of programs. That’s great. Thanks for walking us through that. I wanted to talk about the diversity of the Latinx population. And, you know, last year during Hispanic Heritage Month, which we’re currently in now Hector Tobar, an associate professor of literary journalism in Chicano, Latino studies also participated in the UCI Podcast and spoke about the diversity contained in the term Latino and the various Latinx cultures across America from Hispanic to Cubano to Puerto Rican. And so, my, my question really is how does the Latinx Resource Center capture all this diversity?
Yeah. You know, I try my best, you know, to make sure that we are hiring a diverse staff that is representative of kind of the diaspora. But I think really it’s about the programming and is encouraging our students to bring in different aspects of their community that they’re familiar with. So, one of those examples is renaming of the Dia de los Muertos to Dia de los Difuntos for that inclusivity piece. Another way that we’re doing it is during Black History Month, we’re celebrating Afro-Latinidad. So, in conjunction with some of the programming that is happening across campus, we’re doing our own programming where we’re highlighting our Afro-Latino community. We’ve brought in speakers from outside who either identifies like Blackxican or Puerto Rican and are doing programming for our students in kind of a workshop, keynote speaker style.
So that’s just, I think, a little bit of what we’re doing. I, we want to be able to do more. I think one of the things that we also don’t talk about is the way some students who have grown up in the U.S. but maybe don’t speak Spanish. And so that’s one of the new programs that we’re going to be bringing in is to help students get better at their Spanish. So, some students may identify, you know, a word used as pocho Spanish, which means that your Spanish is more like Spanglish, maybe you understand it, but you don’t feel comfortable speaking it and you wish you spoke it. There’s also a generation, of Chicanos, right? Of Mexican Americans in California who in the fifties were penalized in schools for speaking Spanish.
Right? You know, whether they were in Catholic school or public school. They often said in Catholic school they were slapped with a ruler if they spoke Spanish. And so that generation has this, to a certain extent, this trauma about speaking Spanish. So, then they chose not to educate their children to speak Spanish because they were afraid that their children would experience the same kind of discrimination or, or just, you know, inconsideration, I guess, within the school system. And so, there’s often students in that, in this generation that maybe are still coming, you know, from those various generations that are still coming up that just, you know, we didn’t learn. We’ve been here for a long time, and we didn’t learn Spanish and I wish I did. So, we’re planning on having kind of a, we haven’t come up with a snazzy title yet, but a Spanish conversation program where we can have students who feel more fluent helping students who don’t feel as fluent or want to improve their Spanish, and just having kind of a casual conversation program
That is really interesting, you know, that is an aspect that I don’t know that, is widely known. And I, I love that you’re addressing it. I think that that’s great and good luck with that, really. That’s fascinating. I wanted to ask, and we kind of touched on this, do you have some specific plans in the way that the Latinx Resource Center hopes to not only engage with students, but the whole UCI community in this coming year?
Yeah. I’m trying to think of something different that I haven’t talked about already. But, you know, Dia de los Difuntos is an open event. So, I think that’s the other thing is, you know, La Bienvenida and Dia de los Difuntos are for our community, for our community to feel at home. But really a good portion of it is for others to learn about the community. You know, when we had Dia de los Difuntos last year because of the location, we have a lot of passersby who are just like, “What’s going on?” And, you know, it’s like, come on in, there’s free food, come check out the booths and learn more about this event and the history behind this program. So, you know, part of that, that’s a way that we really want to engage students in a different way.
So, in terms of the UCI community, it’s really, the Latinx Resource Center is really, in a way, open to all?
Right. Right. No, no. Yeah. Okay. Most definitely. And that’s the case for any of these centers. Okay. When we think about, you know, the Center for Black Cultures Resources and Research, you know, all of our centers are meant to be open to everyone to create, and to help educate the larger community while still creating a space where students feel at home and can feel comfortable and feel that their needs are also being met.
That’s great. That’s great. I hear you have a mural in the resource center, and even though this is an audio podcast and we can’t show it, but can you tell us about the mural? And people can come see it?
Yes. You know, it’s a beautiful piece. It has some words in the background that say fuerza, comunidad, silencia, which means strength, resiliency, and then community – comunidad. And so those words kind of serve as a backdrop, with a beautiful, purple butterfly in the center, with some kind of turquoise or light blue kind of weaved in to out the outline of the space. And within that butterfly, are different pieces. So, this is also a student project. We did hire a muralist at Zeo One, who’s a community muralist throughout Orange County. He has many murals across the campus, I mean across the region, and what he did is worked through some workshop sessions. We partnered with Professor Rosas and Professor Dardashti and had him do presentations in their class.
And so those students were invited to also participate in the mural process. And then what we did is when the student, then the students engaged in what they wanted to see, we had done early on throughout the year, did some post-it notes where students said like, “What do you want to see on a mural?” And so that’s where those words that are in the backdrop formulated and then, where you can’t really maybe draw it. And then things that were more tangible made it into the butterfly, which includes some Ballet Folklorico dancers. It includes some floral, when we think about the jacarandas that come from Mexico that we also see throughout the city of Santa Ana. And then, even our, what are they called? Our Zot Bots made it into the mural, that are roaming around because they’re so ever present on our campus. And there’s an anteater.
Yes. And so they wanted something that represented the campus, but the community and kind of how that is all interwoven. And so, it really is a beautiful piece. I do have this ultimate goal that I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make happen this year, is that I really want this to be kind of an annual initiative, where students have the opportunity to participate in this mural process. Because what’s happened on, we have murals, right? And what’s happened on our campus often is then, you know, there’s no new mural for 10 years, or even 20 years at some point. And so, students don’t have an opportunity, right? We have these gaps of students who never got to experience a community mural process. And I come from an arts background, in terms of having grown up with art in my household.
And so, to me, art is very important, and I want students to be able to experience this community process. So, I have this goal of rotating the pieces and maybe if our museum director is listening, having a donation made to the museum where the murals are stored over every year. And so, we have a new mural in our center, and maybe in 10 years we can do a retrospective of those murals. So that’s like this dream goal. We’ll see if I can afford to do it if I, if I’m able to make it happen.
That’s great. It’s really, I would invite anybody who’s listening to come up to the Latinx Resource Center and see this mural. It’s gorgeous. Tell the listeners where the Latinx Resource Center is located and what are your hours?
Yeah. We’re in the UCI Student Center in what’s called the RISE Suite on the fourth floor. And the RISE Suite stands for rooted in student empowerment, really out of the basis that all the centers; it’s kind of a hub of various centers where here, co-located with the Dream Center, the Sustainability Resource Center, the Women’s Center for Success and the UC Immigrant Legal Services Center. And so, we are in, like I said, the UCI Student Center, fourth floor, G 458. The easiest way to get here is to come up through Ring Road, up the side of the stairs, behind the marque, and come up to the fourth floor, and we’re right next to those entrance doors. And our hours are from nine to five PM Monday through Friday.
Awesome. Adelí, it has been a pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Sheri. Thank you.
You can learn more about the Latinx Resource Center at latinx.uci.edu. The UCI Podcast is a production of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs at the University of California Irvine. I’m Sheri Ledbetter. Thank you for listening.