New Latino association to help UHV connect with community
When Jose Cantu and Abran Rodriguez joined the University of Houston-Victoria in 2019, they were surprised to learn that despite the university being designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, it did not have a Latino Faculty & Staff Association. They decided that needed to change.
Cantu, vice president for enrollment management, and Rodriguez, assistant professor of counselor education in the School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development, recently co-founded the UHV Latino Faculty & Staff Association. It is open to any full-time UHV faculty or staff member as well as area residents. Although the association focuses on Latino culture, membership is open to anyone who wishes to participate. The association had its first meeting in September, and the next meeting will be at 4 p.m. Oct. 22.
“We are proud of our status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution,” UHV President Bob Glenn said. “We believe that by empowering our Hispanic faculty and staff to come together and share and then enabling them to have more impact on what we do as an institution only enhances our ability to live up to the reasons we exist in our state and our region. I am proud of the members of this group for stepping up to the challenge, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of their labors.”
The group’s mission is “to build community among the Latinx faculty, staff and other interested professionals by empowering employees at all levels to network, serve as a voice for educational issues, advance personally and professionally, and to foster an inclusive workplace through service in the spirit of Latino culture,” according to the association’s website.
Because the university serves a diverse population of students, including a large percentage of Hispanic and Latino students, the university’s faculty and staff wanted to find ways to reach out to members of the local Hispanic community and partner with them in various initiatives and projects, Cantu said. UHV’s fall 2020 undergraduate student population is 43 percent Hispanic.
“The Latino population is one of the largest-growing demographics in Texas and the U.S., and we wanted to engage with the communities we serve to better reach that population,” Cantu said. “This association will give UHV employees an opportunity to network with those populations and partner with community organizations and nonprofits such as Hispanic chambers of commerce.”
Similar organizations are common on university campuses across the country, Cantu said. In addition to partnering with community organizations, the association also will focus on how to support Latino students at the university through developing scholarships, bringing in speakers and hosting events that will promote cultural awareness and participation in community efforts such as voter registration.
One of the main areas of focus is educating others in the community about Latino culture, Rodriguez said. The association encourages its members to consider how Latino culture and experiences can be shared with others so they can better understand how to work together. The importance of that understanding is something Rodriguez learned during his time working as a high school counselor.
“When students came to my office for help, part of what I needed to do was understand their cultural background and how that impacted them,” he said. “In the same way, the Latino Faculty & Staff Association will help educate the community about Latino culture, and we will be making ourselves available to learn about others as well.”
For more information about the UHV Latino Faculty & Staff Association or to find a membership form, go to www.uhv.edu/latino-faculty-staff-association. The association will have monthly meetings until the end of the spring semester.
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.