Interdepartmental Fall Fest Celebrates Culture
by Alexandra McKay
The Fall Reception, hosted by Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies, Rutgers Advanced Institute for Critical Caribbean Studies, and Center for Latin American Studies, was Oct 1st. It was held primarily to welcome back students, draw more interest into the departments and celebrate a new beginning of the school year. According to Carlos Decena, Department Chair of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean studies, this is the first Fall Reception held by the three departments and represents the evolution of the unit and a new year of activities and events. The Fall Reception celebrates many positives things to the community and Rutgers.
At the reception there was delicious food from many cultures, an excellent variety of music, and many faculty and staff members there to show their support. Edwin Perez, Programming Chair for Latino Student Council, and Diemari Martinez said it brings awareness to the different majors and departments and opens eyes. Jessica Rueda, Sophomore at Rutgers, mentioned it lets students know the different classes offered. Jakora Holman, Director of Student Access and Educational Equity (SAEE), said it represents a department who is sharing their mission, providing a welcoming and informing university community.
But there was a question of whether the Fall Reception really helps the Latino community at Rutgers. There were some differing views on that topic. “Without a doubt”, said Professor Ramos, who teaches Intro to Latino studies. He said it’s “good to come together, go over concerns and congratulate ourselves for these activities which takes everyone to complete”. Madai Cruz-Poole, Administrative Assistant in Latino and Hispanic Caribbean studies, agreed saying, “Yes, but it extends beyond the Hispanic community at Rutgers”. They were hopeful that their efforts were reaching the rest of New Brunswick and it’s surrounding areas.
But some students felt differently. Jessica Alvarez, Junior, felt this did not help the Latino community at Rutgers. She said the Fall reception “should be on College Avenue or in a bigger facility” to get more students interested. Mara Alonso, Freshman, believed that more emphasis should be put on the Latino studies and informing students of the different programs. Edwin Perez felt that Rutgers could simply do more for the Latinos at Rutgers. “The Latino community is underfunded. It’s hard to get awareness out to the student population. Rutgers New Brunswick needs more Latino representation on staff. Most of the minorities you see working here are in cleaning services”.
After asking around, it seemed most guests considered the Fall Reception a success but could use more students. Maria Lozano, Secretary in Latino and Hispanic Caribbean studies, said that it was a great group of people with many offering to help get the word out so students are able to major and minor in the Latino studies. Some students, like Jessica Alvarez, believed it wasn’t a success because “it’s mostly faculty, so it needs more students”. Professor Ramos considered it a success because “Students from class came so that’s always fun,” (laughs),“Means you know they care”. The department chair, Carlos Decena, was very enthusiastic about the turn-out. “Succes? Yes, a lot of different people came. But he too admitted it could benefit from more students. “Always want more students”.
Overall, the Fall Reception shows the coming together and celebration of the Latino/Hispanic community at Rutgers, but also some of it’s issues. The main issue being: How to get the word out to students? Many of the attendees felt that simply more students were needed in attendance at the reception. The departments are still trying to get the get information of the majors and programs to students. And another subject of discussion is some believing that the Latino community is underfunded and underrepresented in staff. But Carlos Decena is at least making moves to fix some of these problems. He said the three departments are collaborating, and though he is unsure if there will be a Spring Reception, there will definitely be events throughout the Spring semester to attract more interested students.