Alumni explore Latino issues at conference

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More than 200 Latino alumni from around the country gathered at Yale this weekend for the University’s first-ever Latino Alumni reunion, where participants celebrated the growth of the University’s Latino community and discussed the challenges it still faces.

Through roundtable discussions, panels and workshops on the history of Latinos at Yale, alumni addressed reaching out to Latino prospective students, increasing Latino representation on campus and building stronger regional networks of Latino alumni nationwide.

“The Latino community on campus has grown significantly over the past 30 years,” said Rosalinda Garcia, assistant dean of Yale College and director of La Casa Cultural. “I am thrilled to see so many alumni crying out of happiness to see the fruit of their work.”

Garcia said the reunion allowed students on campus to show gratitude for the legacy of Latino alumni at Yale — a legacy that includes the pre-orientation program Cultural Connections and the ethnic counselor program, which the University is phasing out this year. For alumni, the event, which took more than a year to plan, was also a chance to see how Yale has changed since they last walked its halls.

“This is a special event that brings back memories of how difficult it was for Latinos to feel comfortable at Yale,” said Eduard Padro ’75, who founded Despierta Boricua, an organization for Puerto Rican students. “The very first issue was the lack of representation back in the ’70s.”

At the reunion’s closing ceremony, La Casa’s undergraduate coordinators outlined work that remains to be done on Yale’s campus. Nicole de Paz ’11, Diandra Fermin ’12 and Jennifer Ramos ’10 said efforts need to be made to expand alumni mentoring and to attract both Latino students and tenured faculty. And Latino activities on campus could be much more vibrant with more financial backing, Garcia said, adding that the $2,000 La Casa was given to plan Latino Heritage Month events left students “forced to spend so much time on fundraising.”

Latino alumni have never held a reunion on a national level, said Daniel Acosta, co-chairman of the interim board of directors of the Yale Latino Alumni Association, despite strong Latino involvement in local alumni associations.

“We expect to get people here to feel the excitement and opportunities for an organization like this,” Acosta said, “we hope to push for organizational awareness and get 500 people for the next reunion.”

Students the University characterizes as “Hispanic” make up 8.1 percent of the undergraduate student body.

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