As an undergraduate student at Butler University, Gwen Valles ʼ21 worked as an intern at the Academic Promotion Office, where her primary responsibility was to collect Butler scholarship donor thank you notes from their recipient students. . In the course of his work, Valles noticed that there were no existing Butler Scholarships designated for Latinx students, nor any established alumni community for Latinx graduates.
“The lack of representation and scholarships motivated me,” says Valles. “I started collecting information on how to start an alumni group and establish scholarships through Butler University. I wanted to establish something that would have a lasting impact on Latinx students at Butler.
Valles worked with Butler’s community engagement staff to contact alumni to gauge their interest in creating a new community of Latinx alumni. A number of alumni responded to express their interest in participating, and eventually a group of five emerged as a steering committee to put the idea into action. Daniel Aguilar ʼ14 is the first president of the Latinx Alumni Association (LXAA), which was officially established earlier this year. Valles continues to lead the group as a member of the steering committee. The other members of the steering committee are Emily Newell Keller ’11, Sara Marshall ’06 and Cristina McNeiley ’17.
Assembled in August 2021, LXAA strives to connect alumni and students who identify with Latin American and Hispanic communities at Butler University and with each other through social, cultural and educational, with the ultimate goal of helping Butler students succeed and further strengthening the Butler Latinx community.
“In my personal experience, in a predominantly white institution, it can be difficult to find yourself,” Aguilar says. “Many students find it difficult to feel identified and connected to their culture, especially when they don’t see many other people who are like them. So we want to create an environment where students can connect, learn from each other and feel like they belong. It’s great to be a part of the group that can give that back to the students, and we hope the professors and staff at Latinx will be a part of that as well, as we’re trying to create that sense of community that we wish we had for ourselves. when we were students.
Although the group was present at Butler Homecoming in September and Family Weekend in October, the Latinx Alumni Association will host their first official meeting, La Primer Charla, via Zoom on December 9 at 7:00 p.m. The meeting is open to all Butler alumni who identify with Latin American and Hispanic communities. Unlike regional alumni communities which are based on geographic location, the Latinx Alumni Association is an identity group open to alumni from any geographic location.
Like all alumni communities, the Latinx Alumni Association supports the broader mission of the Butler University Alumni Association by engaging and supporting Butler alumni throughout their lives. The formation of the Latinx Alumni Association is an important step in the Butler University Alumni Association’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and to creating a culture where all members of the Butler community come together. feel welcome and can belong and contribute full potential.
“Every Butler graduate remains an important part of the Butler community, so our efforts to more fully realize Ovid Butler’s founding vision of a fair environment for all include our alumni,” said Danny Kibble, executive director of the ‘Advancement for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Initiatives & Family Sponsorship. “Butler is committed to fostering the success and lifelong development of every Bulldog, and we are delighted to support Butler’s growing Latinx community through the Latinx Alumni Association.”
One of the first and main goals of the group is to establish a mentoring program between members of the Latinx Alumni Association and Butler students involved in the Latinx Student Union to encourage and support current students.
“A lot of the Latinx students who come to college are first generation students, myself included, so growing up I didn’t get much advice from my parents on what to expect or what to do about it. succeed in college, ”Aguilar said. “So I remember coming home and telling my mom what was going on with Butler and she could provide a lot of emotional support, but not so much in the tangible resources of the things I needed to know and do to get there. ‘before. This is where mentors came in and played a very important role in my development. So that’s one of our main goals, to offer the same mentorship and guidance to other students to help them succeed.
Marcos Navarro-Garcia ʼ22, a current Butler student involved with the Latinx Student Union, says the Butler alumni mentorship will be a welcome addition for Latinx students.
“For us, this is a new level of representation, connection and support,” said Navarro-Garcia. “It excites me to think that current and future students of Latinx Butler will have access to an incredible network of passionate and talented leaders who have all been able to graduate from Butler University.”
Navarro-Garcia works on campus as the Associate Coordinator of Multicultural Student Engagement at the Efroymson Diversity Center, where he ensures that students feel a sense of belonging to Butler. He concedes that some Latinx alumni may not have felt a strong sense of belonging during their time at Butler, but that LXAA offers a new opportunity to find that sense of community with other Butler graduates. .
“I hope to see Latinx alumni recalled to the Butler community on a mission to help current Latinx students graduate despite the challenges they face,” said Navarro-Garcia. “While these Latinx alumni may have left Butler with very isolated and difficult experiences, we can all agree that we no longer want this for Latinx students on our campus. Courageous people who have successfully navigated Butler as Latinx students are perfect leaders and role models for the students who need them most.
In addition to launching a mentorship program, Valles says those days of collecting thank-you notes as a student intern also inspired a desire to eventually be able to work with other alumni and interested groups to establish a scholarship to Butler for Latinx students.
“Our population needs targeted funding to ensure that we also have the opportunity to benefit from our butler experience,” said Valles. “We are a growing minority and schools must be equipped to properly support the influx of Latinx students they will receive in the near future. The Butler University Latinx Alumni Association is young, but we will work hard to become a strong support system for these students. I entered Butler as a first generation student and found a home in the Latinx Student Union. I hope the Latinx Alumni Association connects us beyond our undergraduate years.
To learn more or to contact the Latinx Alumni Association, visit LXAA Facebook page Where Bulldogs connect. Register for the virtual meeting (La Primer Charla) on December 9 here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about whether to join the meeting.