Diversity Adds ‘Strong and Colorful Threads’ to the Mason Fabric

Posted: September 5, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

Photo (Caption Below)

Professional dance instructor Karen Aguilar leads a salsa dancing class in the Johnson Center as part of last year’s Latin Night.

When junior Andres Maldonado was looking at colleges, he wasn’t just thinking about academics. He was looking for a place where he would feel comfortable and be able to find a community.

“What attracted me the most when applying to Mason, aside from the academics, was the incredible amount of diversity on campus,” says Maldonado, a business management major. “I think this is one of the top reasons why so many Hispanic students enroll here.”

Of the 28,874 students enrolled at Mason last year, 1,678 identified themselves as Hispanic.

Andres Maldonado
Andres Maldonado accepted a student leadership award on behalf of the Hispanic Student Association.

This summer, Mason was recognized for a second time as the most diverse university in the nation by the Princeton Review. And the Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education has given the university kudos this year by naming Mason No. 1 nationally in awarding doctoral degrees and No. 13 in awarding master’s degrees to Hispanic students. Hispanic Outlook has previously featured Mason in its listing of the top 100 schools in the nation with a solid record of recruiting, enabling, and graduating Hispanic students.

Connecting to the Local Community

Jessica Ranero, assistant director of Hispanic Student Affairs in Mason’s Office of Diversity Programs and Services, sees these accolades as a reflection of how Mason serves the local community. “As the local Hispanic community grows, so does our on-campus Hispanic population,” says Ranero. “Mason offers a great opportunity to attend a public university that is also close to home.”

“When you walk around campus for the first time, it is comforting to see the students who share the same ethnicity, language and culture as you do,” says Maldonado, who quickly immersed himself in the culture he found here. He now serves as president of the Hispanic Student Association (HSA), one of the most active student organizations on campus, and he plays a leadership role in the campus’s annual celebration of national Hispanic Heritage Month.

Dancing, Reflecting and Educating: Hispanic Heritage Month Events

From September 15 through October 15, the Office of Diversity Programs and Services and a large number of Hispanic student organizations like HSA lead Mason in celebrating the month with the theme “Hispanic Americans: Strong and Colorful Threads in the American Fabric.” Events throughout the month have students:

  • sharing the microphone with award-winning poet Judith Ortiz-Cofer (Friday, Sept. 16),

  • celebrating Latin music and dancing the night away during Havana Nights (Friday, Sept. 30),

  • enjoying Ballet Hispanico at the Center for the Arts (Saturday, Oct. 1), and

  • participating in the fourth annual Organizations for Hispanic Leadership in America (Friday and Saturday, Oct. 7 and 8).

Marie Arana
Marie Arana

This year’s keynote speaker is Marie Arana, editor of The Washington Post’s Book World and author of the memoir, “American Chica.” Arana, who is the first Latina to serve as an editor at the Washington Post, will speak on Tuesday, Sept. 27, in the Johnson Center, Dewberry Hall, at 4:30 p.m.

“We are excited to have Marie Arana because she comes from a family that is Peruvian and also American, so she definitely epitomizes the bicultural experience,” says Ranero. “In her book, [Arana] talks a lot about her bicultural upbringing,” she continues, “and knowing that a lot of our students are either first-generation immigrants or descendants of recent immigrants, they also often are balancing the two worlds. Whether it is a traditional Hispanic home or traditions, and then the more Americanized experience they have here—on a daily basis, they are always encountering a bicultural experience. Her story will definitely resonate with theirs.”

In addition, the Mason University Libraries, in partnership with the Fall for the Book festival, is presenting a special audio exhibition on Latin music to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. The exhibit, which can be found in the second-floor atrium of Fenwick Library, features books, musical instruments and other artifacts, plus an audio listening station featuring webcasts of Cuban radio stations and other Latin music samples.

To keep your finger on Mason’s Latin pulse, check out the Hispanic Heritage Month calendar listing for the latest information.

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