El Centro: Annual Report 2021-22
El Centro aims to promote an inclusive environment that focuses on awareness and understanding of the Latinx/e experience. Strong focus is put on the values of people and culture. This focus can be seen in this year’s 18 programs and resources, some with multiple events, including Latinx/e Activism Week and Latinx/e Heritage Month.
A major focus for the Center was due to student feedback about the feel of the space and inclusivity within the ethnicity and for those with intersectional identities. Students provided feedback that the center focused on Chicano/Mexican identity that didn’t necessarily reflect their individual identities.
To address this need, the center used salary savings to fund a culture revamp which included a redesign of its logo, brand identity materials and lounge space.
To address cultural issues that would bring a more inclusive 21st century feel to the space, the office worked with consultants from Workplace Resource to accommodate multiple seating pods. This included a selection of modular furniture that allowed for us to move furniture around as needed and create intentionally inclusive spaces. In collaboration with the Lory Student Center’s CoLab Marketing Unit, students were provided the opportunity to actively contribute to a new center brand that is more inclusive of the Latinx/e diaspora. The outcome of these efforts included new art in the center, at the entrance, a new community space that encourages engagement, and a brand that is inclusive of multiple Latinx/e identities.
A feature in the University’s College Avenue Student Magazine, and student feedback show how the revamp has been received:
"The new wall wrap outside of El Centro is a beautiful representation of their community."
"Decentralization of Mexican culture is a work in process at El Centro."
"The post-COVID revamp has helped me like El Centro more and staff members make it comfortable."
"El Centro used to be Mexican centered, but has gotten better with being Latin centered."
"El Centro has created a physical safe space and programs for the Latinx/e community at CSU."
An additional post-COVID win for the center was the return of their end of the year celebration: SOMOS Latinx/e Graduation. After a two-year hiatus, El Centro was proud and excited to bring back this important event.
Forecast for the Future
The Center plans to continue supporting students through scholarship awards as well. This year, 16 students were awarded $44,000 through the Elizabeth Woodworth Scholarship, while the New Belgium El Centro Scholarship will award $5000 per year for the next five years to support Latinx/e students in Northern Colorado.
Going forward, El Centro plans to partner with the Alumni Association to host at least two in-person events for Latinx/e Alumni in the Denver metro area, which likely will assist in the next area of focus: raising funds for student support.
Another future focus is fundraising beyond the success of this year. Last September’s “Donor Sprint” helped El Centro raise 106 percent of its goal with the contributions of 47 donors. The center secured a $25,000 gift from Alumnus Tim De Leon, which will become a programming endowment fund for the center. De Leon also committed to a $5,000 yearly donation to the center over the next five years.
2021-22 El Centro Programs
In collaboration with the Pride Center, the Black/African American Cultural Center and RamEvents, El Centro hosted a two-night Bachata Dance Lesson. The In Lack’eh Dance Academy, is an Oakland, California-based organization whose mission is to co-create a community of queer, trans, and ally dancers that celebrate our resilience, nurture our collective strength and assist healing from oppression. Instructors from In Lak'ech Dance Academy conducted the event at Colorado State. Through visibility and artistic expression, we are redefining the Afro-Latin Dance community as a safe and affirming space for all gender identities and sexualities.
In Partnership with the Career Center, El Centro had a Career Center liaison who hosted office hours in El Centro once a month. Students received support in career search, job search, resume support and more.
In collaboration with the B/AACC office and Ernesto Sagas, a Colorado State faculty member in Ethnic Studies, we held the program Racializing Haiti: Race, Class, and International Migration. The program discussed ways in which Haiti’s history, racial/class makeup, and current situation affect global perceptions of this Caribbean nation and its people after its bloody, anti-colonial abolitionist revolution in 1804 that made the country the first Black republic in the world and a pariah among world powers.
Each year, El Centro creates an oferenda (offering) for Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, so that students, staff, faculty and community members can honor family members who have passed. In the traditional two-day celebration held late each fall, it is believed that the passageway between the real world and the spirit world is open so our deceased loved ones can come back to visit us and celebrate by sharing a meal. The celebration originated in Mexico and is celebrated throughout Latin America.
In collaboration with the office of Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement (SLiCE), El Centro hosts a “pocket pantry” in the shared kitchen with the Pride Resource Center and the Women and Gender Advocacy Center (WGAC) at Colorado State. The pantry contains non-perishable food for students and is restocked every couple of weeks.
In collaboration with Colorado State’s Health Network, a Counseling Center liaison is assigned to El Centro. This year, the liaison focused on Latina Wellness Wednesdays and served as a direct referral for El Centro students who indicated a need for support.
In partnership with The Office of Financial Aid, El Centro’s Financial Aid liaison hosted office hours in in El Centro each month for a total of eight visits over two semesters. During each session, five to six students would attend to discuss financial aid support. These hours are particularly popular during FAFSA and scholarship season.
La Conexion is El Centro’s peer mentoring program. It aims to uplift skills, qualities and talents Latinx/e students inherently bring to the University. Students are encouraged to use these skills to navigate academic and social structures and are provided resources and support to thrive at Colorado State University and beyond.
With grounding in Tara Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth model (2005), the program, rooted in social and educational justice, fosters a strong sense of community, celebrates identities, and focuses on student engagement and academics. Backbone values for the program are: community (Familial Capital/Social Capital), academics (Aspirational Capital/Linguistic Capital), celebration of identities (Cultural Capital/Linguistic Capital/Resistance Capital), student engagement (Social Capital/Navigational Capital). The program intends to help first-year students who participate garner a well-defined sense of belonging, a stronger connection to their Latinx/e culture and increased engagement with campus.
The purpose of the Latina Wellness series is to address the specific mental health concerns of Latina women and femmes. In collaboration with the CSU Health Network, Latina Wellness aims to create a space where students can discuss issues that impact mental health at the intersections of race and gender.
In collaboration with the Career Center, El Centro hosted a panel of Latinx/e identified professionals representing a variety of industries. Panelists shared stories of being Latinx/e in the workplace, discussed navigating and appreciating their identity in their career and answered student questions.
Latinx/e Activism Week is a collaborative effort between El Centro and several campus partners. It commemorates the historical contributions of Cesar Chavez, Delores Huerta and the farmworkers rights movements. Programming during this week honors Latinx/e history while uplifting contemporary activists, advocates and leaders who continue to contribute to advocacy for civil and worker’s rights in Fort Collins and beyond.
National Latinx/e Heritage Month has become synonymous with celebrating and educating others about the Latinx/e community’s rich traditions while embracing diversity, multiculturalism and the intersectionality of our identities. It is a time where we can all get together to CELEBRATE our unique backgrounds. Programming consists of keynote speakers, small group dialogues, identity-based gatherings and cultural performances.
This program intends to give CSU Latinx/e Faculty and Staff an opportunity to share with CSU students about a topic in which they hold expertise and/or passions. The program means to create an opportunity for Faculty and Staff to also share a bit about their educational journey as Latinx/e folx with the intent of building a community of support for Latinx/e students at CSU.
Platicas is a series of student-facilitated dialogues that intend to increase awareness about the diverse issues of equity, identity, social and political climates that are impacting the Latinx/e community. It is meant to be an engaging and interactive space where participants are encouraged to delve into critical conversation and learning regarding the topic of the week. Past topics have included: Social Class in the Latinx/e Community, Anti-Blackness, Colorism, Mental Health, Privilege, and Afro-Latinx/e Identity.
SOMOS highlights the accomplishments of our Latinx/e students and graduates. It features graduate student speakers, presents El Centro stoles to our graduates and honors El Centro Award Recipients. This year, we celebrated 70 graduates and distributed 242 stoles to graduates the week following the celebration. Awards at the celebration include:
- Dr. Guadalupe Salazar Outstanding Student Legacy Award given to one Junior or Senior undergraduate who demonstrates excellent academic achievement.
- La Conexion Participant Award given to a first-year/transfer student who actively participates in, demonstrates a commitment to and actively encourages and supports their peers and upholds core values of La Conexion.
- Latinx/e Graduate Student Award recognizes a masters or doctoral Latinx/e student who excels in their academic field through research, practice and or community engagement. The recipient of this award is a student who is actively engaged in giving back to their community through their field work.
- Mary Ontiveros Latinx/e Faculty/Staff Award given to a CSU Latinx/e faculty or staff member who has impacted Colorado State University or Northern Colorado Latinx/e communities through their work, practice, research, scholarship, mentorship or contributions.
These meet ups intend to provide space for students from this area of the Latinx/e world so they can find community and increase their sense of belonging at CSU and in El Centro.
Todos Juntos aims to create a positive environment for Latinx/e graduate students to make connections and build a community. Monthly meetings focus on a variety of topics around identity and what it means to be a Latinx/e grad student at CSU, including graduate student experiences within each college, challenges, involvement and professional development opportunities on campus.
Includes programming during the first week of classes to welcome new and continuing students back to campus. Additional spaces are open for faculty and staff to visit El Centro and learn more about the office, programming and make connections with other campus partners.