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Latinx Graduate Student Association launches at VCU

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Photos by Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs.

A group of Virginia Commonwealth University graduate students are launching the university’s first Latinx Graduate Student Association for grad students of Latinx descent and those who are interested in Latinx culture.

“My hope is for this organization to serve as a place where Latino/a graduate students can get together and meet each other in VCU,” said Efren Velazquez, an elder in the organization and a fifth-year student in the Health Psychology Ph.D. Program in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “Further, I also hope that the organization can serve as a place where other graduate students can learn more about the Latinx culture by attending our future events — guest speakers, community projects — and interact with us, the Latino [and Latina] graduate students.”   

The word Latinx is an ungendered Spanish term that is growing in popularity and is seen as more inclusive.

The group is beginning to plan events for the upcoming year, including social events, community service and an academic speaker series. It will also soon begin recruitment push on both the Monroe Park and MCV campuses.

“We are going to be sending recruitment emails through the graduate listserv for Monroe Park and we’re in talks to get that out to the MCV campus as well,” said Latinx Graduate Student Association president Ruben Martinez, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology. “We’re interested in involving some cross-campus communication. I’d love to meet a lot of people.”

The idea for the Latinx Graduate Student Association grew out of a spring semester luncheon for Latinx psychology graduate students organized by Velazquez and his mentor, Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and director of the Clinical Psychology Program.

What I’m hoping the students will be able to do is network with other Latina/o graduate students, and other graduate students who have an interest in Latin cultures.

“During our spring semester Latina/o lunch, Dr. Corona mentioned to us that we should consider starting up a Latinx graduate student association for the following school year, given that we would have three new incoming Latinx graduate students in the Psychology Department,” Velazquez said. “Around July, I started the process of starting the organization.”

As the Latinx population grows both in Richmond and at VCU, Corona said, the need for an organization such as the Latinx Graduate Student Association has grown.

“What I’m hoping the students will be able to do is network with other Latina/o graduate students, and other graduate students who have an interest in Latin cultures. The Latina/o community in the City of Richmond is growing rapidly and yet we don’t have any real organization at the university for graduate students who are of Latina/o descent,” she said. “This is a nice opportunity to network and liaise with one another and to help their community, as well.”

The organization will provide members with opportunities for professional development, networking, socializing and community service. “And it will be a safe space for discussions around experiences that they may have here at VCU and in the City of Richmond,” Corona said.

Martinez said he also hopes the Latinx Graduate Student Association will partner with and support other groups on campus, including the Black Graduate Student Association.

VCU has an undergraduate Latino Student Association, so the Latinx Graduate Student Association is filling a need for graduate students and building VCU’s pipeline for Latinx students’ personal and professional development, Corona said.

“I’m really proud of them, that they got together and put this together,” she said. “We have undergraduate [Latinx] organizations, but we don’t really have anything focused on graduate students — so in terms of the pipeline for diversifying our faculty and diversifying our students, we’ve kind of been missing [this part] of the pipeline. We still do not have a faculty Latinx organization, but we’re working on that now to further build the pipeline. So I’m proud of them for starting the organization and moving it forward.”

In addition to Martinez and Velazquez, the other Latinx Graduate Student Association officers are elders Julia Cox and Mikey Trujillo, vice president Zoe Smith and treasurer Melissa Avila.

 

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