Search nearing end for director of La Casa

La Casa saw a monumental changes last year when the Mexican cultural center and the Puerto Rican center combined to form a unified Latino cultural center. Now, the search for a new dean may lead to the biggest change for La Casa this year.

Last March, Assistant Dean Richard Chavolla left his post as director of La Casa and the Native American Cultural Center. Throughout the summer, a committee comprising students and administrators has been interviewing candidates to replace him.

Committee chair and history professor Stuart Schwartz said the committee is close to a decision.

“We’ve had a large number of applicants,” Schwartz said. “We brought four people to the campus. We have a second interview this week with one candidate, then the committee will rank the candidates and make a recommendation to the dean.”

Schwartz, who is editor of the Hispanic American Historical Review, said the search process was delayed because Chavolla left so late in the spring semester, making it difficult to find a replacement at the start of the school year.

“We thought we would be able to have someone in place for the fall semester, but that became impossible so, we’re doing what we’re doing now,” Schwartz said.

Chavolla resigned because his wife, Anna Ortega-Chavolla, got a full-time position with National Council for Education and Community Partnerships, an organization based in Washington, D.C. Assistant Dean Edgar Letriz is serving as interim director of La Casa and the Native American Cultural Center.

Dean of Student Affairs and committee member Betty Trachtenberg said student voice has been a substantial part of the search committee.

“Yes, the students have been active,” Trachtenberg said. “The interviews have been with the students. They’ve been part of the entire process.”

Students on the committee include Francisco Lopez ’02, who is moderator of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan; Latino ethnic counselor Joseph Cubas ’02 and former Native American ethnic counselor Amanda DeZutter ’01.

Search committee members have been challenged to find a replacement capable of fulfilling the dual role Chavolla held — director of La Casa and director of the Native American Cultural Center.

“I think it’s been semi-difficult, but the committee is looking for someone who will fulfill both,” Lopez said. “I think we’ve had a diverse group of candidates.”

Schwartz said finding an applicant with experience in both these areas has been a primary concern of the committee.

“We certainly included that in the job description,” Schwartz said. “Whoever comes will occupy both of those positions.”

Lopez said despite the lack of a permanent dean, La Casa is continuing to sponsor events and operations.

“The student organizations are strong enough and Dean Letriz is flexible enough, but we’re in need of administrative guidance on funding and repairs needed at La Casa,” Lopez said.

Chavolla was instrumental in the consolidation of the Puerto Rican and Mexican cultural centers into one Latino cultural center, as well as the formation of a group, El Concilio, which would serve as a liaison between all of the student organizations housed in La Casa.

Lopez said the consolidation of the houses continues to yield positive results.

“I think right now, it’s going great,” Lopez said. “There has been a lot of intercooperation between groups and El Concilio has its officers now.”

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