Event highlights how UCLA’s Latino community is ‘growing the future’

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Wilson Plaza bustled with activity the afternoon of Monday, Oct. 9, resembling more of a vibrant town square than a university quad. Decorated communal eating areas surrounded a stage on which UCLA’s Mariachi de Uclatlán ensemble joyfully played. From beneath two large canopies, delicious-smelling food was doled out by popular local eateries Pinches Tacos and El Zunzal Pupuseria.

Students, faculty, staff, alumni and families arrived in a celebratory mood, many coming in groups and excitedly joining friends or ushering over new peers as they ate or browsed the large resource fair, learning about the courses, programs and organizations available to them across campus.

UCLA’s Latinx Welcome, this year titled “Creciendo Nuestro Futuro” (“Growing our Future”), featured several speakers, among them Chancellor Gene Block; Carina Salazar, executive director for career and immersive experiences; and Elizabeth Gonzalez, the inaugural director of UCLA’s Hispanic-Serving Institution initiative. Gonzalez’s team, which is driving UCLA’s efforts to earn the federal designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by 2025, were the main sponsors of the event.

“The theme ‘Growing Our Future’ — which I think fits exactly with what we’re trying to do at UCLA — recognizes the impact of the Latinx community and that we’re growing our future leaders here,” Block told the roughly 2,000 attendees.

As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, UCLA would be eligible for a range of federal grants to bolster educational programs, research training and academic attainment for Latino, low-income and other underrepresented students. For UCLA to be designated an HSI, 25% of its students must identify as Latino and 35% of all undergraduates must be Pell Grant recipients.

“We’re hiring faculty and postdocs with ties to Latinx life, hiring staff to support Latinx students, seed grants for scholarships tied to the study of Latinx populations and the HSI Fellows Program,” Block said. “We’ll have all the types of confidence and support that makes this the most attractive institution in the country for Latinx students to study.”

Read more on UCLA Newsroom here.