The Latinx Cultural Center (LCC) has a new space at Utah State University and welcomes all students interested in participating in and learning about Latinx culture. Now located in room 227 of the Taggart Student Center, it provides a centralized meeting place for Latinx students on campus.
“This space is an opportunity for students and members of the community who have interest in Latinx culture to gather together and feel like it’s theirs,” said LCC Director Christopher Gonzalez. “They can relax, they can be themselves, they can speak Spanish, or Spanglish, or English, whatever feels comfortable for them. It’s a space where they feel like they don’t have to be something that they’re not.”
The LCC came to fruition as a collaboration between Gonzalez and USU President Noelle E. Cockett. The two worked together to create a plan for a center, then to find the right space for it. Cockett is very proud to have the center in the student center and routinely checks on the status of the Latinx students at USU.
“As president, I strive to make sure that all of our people feel that they belong,” said Cockett. “The Latinx Cultural Center has provided a space that our Latinx students can feel comfortable with their essence, their culture, their successes and celebrate their place at Utah State University.”
The new LCC is part of a renovation of an old auditorium in the student center and includes an entrance from the outside. The space is split into two parts: a space for fellowship and a space for students to focus on academic work. The center provides snacks, a place for students to gather to socialize, use computers and print homework and get the help they need to be academically successful. Above all, it is a place for students to feel welcome and have their culture recognized.
“Having a center here on campus signals to the Latinx community that USU, as a land grant institution, offers access and opportunities for all,” said Celina Wille, LCC associate director. “USU is not an exclusive place but it is inclusive. The center fills important functions to help our students succeed and to invite the community to feel part of it, seeing USU as their university too.”
The center has already been well received by students, and the center’s staff hope to see even more students utilize the space in the coming semesters. Pamela Arias Allcott, the LCC coordinator of programs, likes to ask Latinx students who have used the center what it means for them to have a center that celebrates them. She says she always gets a similar answer, that the center is a home away from home.
“Many students become really good friends in the center, they’re more like family,” she said. “One of the greatest things we see here is when we see students go through the process and we make sure they get the support they need. And we get to see how they change and grow, because they have the support and have someone walking through with them.”
Gonzalez is excited to have more students use the center and learn more about Latinx culture. He praised the leadership of Cockett for allocating resources and real estate to make the center a priority and a physical space students can use. He calls it a one-stop-shop for students to receive any of the help they need, or the comradery they crave.
“We’re constantly encouraging students to stop and get to know us,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of students, especially who identify as Latinx students, they come from a culture where they’re not supposed to ask for help, but to do it on their own. Our university culture is different because broadly speaking we want students to let us know how they’re doing.”
Gonzalez hopes students use the center, because as he says, it is there to be used. He issues an open invitation to any student who wants to be a part of the center and learn about and participate in Latinx culture.
“I invite people to come to the center, to hang out and to come to our events,” he said. “This is how you get to know a culture. This is how you get to break stereotypes of the people, by spending time with them.”
For more information on the LCC and future events, visit usu.edu/latinx.