Boise State’s Alumni Association just added a new group to its roster, a chapter for Latino alumni and friends.
“I am ecstatic about us being granted a chapter,” said Alicia Garza, associate professor and Spanish Section Head in the Boise State Department of World Languages.
She and a group of alumni and Boise State staffers started meeting in the spring to talk about organizing the chapter. Garza believes it’s the first of its kind at any Idaho college or university. The chapter already has 103 members.
A new chapter makes sense, said Garza. Twelve percent of the university’s undergraduates, or 2,445 students are Latino. Thirteen percent of the first-year students are Latino, and the Latino population is growing, said Cienna Madrid with the communications and marketing department.
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The new alumni group is open to everyone.
“Anyone interested in Latino culture, in speaking Spanish, or just wanting to hang out with a bunch of Latinos,” said Garza.
The motivation to create the chapter came from a desire to give back to the community and “help others be successful,” said Garza. That includes large numbers of students who are the first in their families to go to college.
The chapter plans to host “Spanish orientation 101” for Spanish-speaking parents sending their students to college, providing parents with Spanish-speaking contacts on campus and familiarizing them with campus life. Among other plans: fundraisers for scholarships, a graduation celebration for Latino graduates and their families and a card-writing campaign to encourage Latino students who may have left their studies for one reason or another, to come back. Garza and current Latino alumni want to encourage new graduates to stay connected to the university through the alumni group.
The new Latino chapter has a predecessor, Casita Nepantla, a space in the Boise State Student Union Building near the Student Diversity Center focused on Latino exhibitions, activities and meetings. Garza had heard about similar spaces at other universities. Encouraged by BSU President Bob Kustra’s initiative promoting civility on campus, she campaigned for support from the university and the community to create a space at BSU.
Casita translates to “little house” in Spanish. Nepantla is an Aztec word meaning “to be in the middle of things,” said Garza.
“It’s a ‘middle space, a place to negotiate your identity, a democratized space for learning who you are.”
Already, Casita Nepantla has hosted art exhibitions and a presidential debate watching party as well as altars for Dia de los Muertos. The space offers a conference table for meeting and a “buddy writing” room where students can meet and support one another in their writing.
A selection of paintings by artist Alma Gomez currently hangs at Casita Nepantla. An opening reception is in the works.