What does it mean to be a Hispanic Serving Institution? That can be answered in so many ways. Here at Mesa, one of the ways we represent “Hispanic Serving” is by creating support systems and networks for our Hispanic and underrepresented student population that will encourage them to push through their struggles and overcome their obstacles, transcending even their great hopes and dreams for themselves. One of the ways we attempt to do this is through our Campus Conexiones Speaker Series every semester.
We have often “heard” from our students, and the majority of our speakers have also described, that they did not see many men or women of color or diverse ethnic backgrounds in positions of leadership, authority, or power. They have further revealed what a difference it has made in their lives once they did see someone, someone who “looks” like them, in one of these positions.
Our speaker series was designed in the spirit of this shared experience. We have created an opportunity for students to connect with staff and faculty who “look” like them and may have shared some of the same struggles along the way. This intimate experience breaks down the barriers that often separate students and professors or staff as being unable to relate to each other. It opens the doors to build personal relationships.
Just when we thought our speakers could not come any more vulnerable than they already do, in walks our very
own, Yolanda Catano, HSI Title III Administrative Technician. Yolanda held nothing back as she described her own journey into her identity and how her roles as a daughter, a sister, and a student impacted that journey. She explained how her identity has evolved with her life experiences, redefining and reshaping how she viewed identity and what it means to her. She also shared how important her family has been throughout her accomplishments, even when they did not fully agree with her plans or purpose.
Everyone needs a little inspiration in their lives sometimes. Yolanda shared the things and people that inspired her in life, and in doing so she inspires all of us who witness her strength and resilience in being so open and authentic in such a public forum. She is a leader who does not forget where she came from and is not willing to leave anyone behind as she reaches back to help the next person step up that ladder of success she climbs. Yolanda makes no qualms about the difficulties along the way she simply explains how everything is possible with people who believe in you.
For those of you who missed this powerful installment in our speaker series. It is not too late. We have one more speaker for this semester coming up on April 4th, 2018. Rather than attempting to read an inadequate description of what it means for us to be “Hispanic Serving” come, experience it and be inspired.