Campus & community, Campus news

For Latinx Heritage Month, celebrate our ‘achievements and moments of joy’

By Public Affairs

matos, wearing a white jacket, in a formal portrait
Dania Matos is UC Berkeley’s new head of equity and inclusion. (Photo courtesy Dania Matos)

Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion Dania Matos sent the following message to the campus community on Friday:

Each year, we celebrate National Latinx Heritage Month from September 15th through October 15th. The past twelve months have been especially challenging for many Latinx communities, but there have also been wonderful achievements and moments of joy.

matos, wearing a white jacket, in a formal portrait

Dania Matos is UC Berkeley’s new head of equity and inclusion. (Photo courtesy Dania Matos)

For those who I have not yet met, I am Dania Matos , the new Vice-Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion. I have recently come from UC Merced where I was the first associate chancellor and chief diversity officer. I have a background in law, racial justice, and intersectionality and I look forward to working with you to increase inclusion, belonging and justice on our campus.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a disproportionate effect on Latinx communities throughout the country, resulting in more significant impacts on our health, finances and well-being. In fact, a recent poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, led by co-directors G. Cristina Mora and Eric Schickler found that people in Latinx and Native American communities were more insecure about finances and health concerns compared to other groups. And our alumnus and UC faculty member Dr. David Hayes-Bautista has recently published a report with the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture that explores the disproportionate death tolls for communities of color, especially for older adults in the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Latinx communities.

The strength of Latinx communities is demonstrated from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to student activism across campus. UC Berkeley students have a long history of organizing for space on campus: from the creation of the César E. Chávez Student Center to the establishment of the Multicultural Community Center in the Martin Luther King Jr. building. That legacy continues and students have worked hard to establish a new Latinx Student Resource Center (LSRC) opening in early 2022. The LSRC’s “phase-one” space will be located in Hearst Gym and will be managed by the Chicanx/Latinx Student Development Office, led by Director Lupe Gallegos-Diaz. Students will co-create programming, and build familia y comunidad that increases their sense of belonging at UC Berkeley.

UC Berkeley has committed to becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) by 2027. The HSI Initiative is UC Berkeley’s plan to increase the number of Latinx students and build a sense of belonging where Chicanx/Latinx students can thrive academically, personally and professionally.  Campus stakeholders, led by co-chairs, Dr. Oscar Dubón and Dr. Kris Gutierrez, completed the HSI Task Force Draft Report in the spring of 2021. The university is excited to announce that our Fall 2021 incoming class is exceptionally diverse once again and moving us closer to our HSI goals. The university increased the number of admitted students from communities underrepresented in higher education, including Chicanx/Latinx students, by nearly 7% over Fall 2020. We welcomed our new students with the shared book for new freshmen and transfer students, The Undocumented Americans , by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. The author gave a talk at Golden Bear Orientation last month and more programming around the book is planned this fall.

Increasing the number of Latinx faculty at Berkeley is also an institutional priority, and will be a key component to becoming an HSI. The university has adopted the strategy of “faculty cluster hires” as a way of building intellectual communities and diversifying the faculty. The Latinx Communities and Democracy cluster will begin the hiring process this 2021-22 academic year.

Research by and about Latinx communities continues to thrive at Cal. The Latinx Research Center continued to host important programs throughout the pandemic year including, “Decolonizing Epistemologies: A Conversation with Latinx Philosophers” and a new podcast by poet Alán Pelaez Lopez titled, “What’s In a Name?” where they explore the term “Latinx.” The Latinxs and the Environment Initiative provides student research opportunities focused on climate change and environmental justice issues. Representatives recently participated in the second annual Agriculture and Technology Conference in Stockton, California, organized by the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, led by Cal alumnus, Esperanza Vielma.

We are elated to announce that we have ten UC Berkeley award winners who received the Northern California Chicana Latina Foundation scholarship. The organization’s mission is to empower Chicanas and Latinas through personal, educational and professional advancement.

To help memorialize the important role that Chicanx and Latinx students, faculty and staff have played on this campus, the Ethnic Studies Department, Chicanx Latinx Student Development Center and Undergraduate Apprenticeship Program have partnered to launch the Legacy Timeline Project. This project researches and documents the role and hxstory of the Chicanx and Latinx community on the UC Berkeley campus. For more information, please contact Lillian Castillo Speed or Lupe Gallegos-Diaz .

Please join me in welcoming to the California Alumni Association (CAA) their new president, Alfonso Salazar . Alfonso is a UC Berkeley ‘90 alumnus who was a student activist in organizations such as MEChA and the United Students of Color. He is committed to engaging with student leaders and continuing to diversify the leadership of the CAA. To continue to build a pipeline of Latinx leaders across the system, the Chicanx Latinx Advisory Council will host the Chicanx Latinx Leadership Summit on Monday, September 20th. Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz of UC Merced will introduce President Drake, who will engage with moderator Stephanie Reyes-Tuccio, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Educational Partnerships at UC Irvine.

The UC Chicanx Latinx Alumni Association , the new collective organization for all ten UC campuses, was recently recognized by UC President Michael V. Drake, MD, as the “first”  systemwide alumni constituency group in UC’s 150+ year history! The group’s mission is to advocate for and represent the collective interests of Latinx alumni at all ten UC campuses to the University of California Office of the President. And our current UCB Chicanx Latinx Alumni Association (UCB CLAA) is preparing for their Homecoming event on October 2nd, which will feature a faculty speaker, a student scholarships awards ceremony and alumni class reunions.

The alumni are also kicking off the 2022 Legacy Event which will feature three days of alumni celebrations, networking and engagement with the campus.

We invite you to learn more about Latinx Heritage Month here at UC Berkeley and to read, listen, learn, participate and engage with the many communities and activities highlighted this month.