Latinx leadersTo mark Hispanic Heritage Month, we highlight some exceptional Anteaters
By Lilibeth Garcia
To tell the UCI tale is to share the story of the great impact of its Latinx faculty, staff and students. Their achievements have made the university an intellectual and healthcare leader and forged it into the most popular University of California campus among the state’s Latinx high school graduates.
UCI’s Latinx faculty and students have won Pulitzer Prizes and Fulbright scholarships, and its alumni continue to influence.
With myriad programs and activities focused on engendering success in this student population, UCI has become known as a Latinx-thriving campus, especially for those who are the first in their families to attend college. Last year, UCI earned federal designation as a Hispanic-serving institution, a rare accomplishment among the nation’s leading research universities. In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, we’re highlighting a few members of the School of Humanities who embody Latinx excellence.
Vicki L. RuizDistinguished Professor Emerita of history and Chicano/Latino studies
Noteworthy achievements include: Recipient of the National Humanities Medal; served as president of four major scholarly associations, including the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association; former dean of UCI’s School of Humanities.
Quote: “When I started out, Chicano history was Chicano – emphasis on the masculine form of that word. Women were the landscape figures. They were often cast as mothers who didn’t venture far from the home. They remained in the shadows of history. Now you can’t study the history of Mexican Americans or Latinos without discussing women. And it’s about all people. Now UCI is a center for Chicano/Latino studies. It’s gratifying to me, having taught at UCI for 16 years, to see a small program that had been systemically starved of resources for decades become one of the top ethnic studies departments in the nation.”
Hector TobarAssociate professor of Chicano/Latino studies and English
Noteworthy achievements include: Author of four books, two of which have won numerous awards; recipient of the Pulitzer Prize while a reporter at the Los Angeles Times; named in 2006 one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the U.S. by Hispanic Business magazine; graduate of UCI’s Programs in Writing (M.F.A., fiction).
Quote: “I taught a class in the spring called Writing Race, and it was the most diverse class I’ve ever taught. I had students of every ethnic background. We read African American authors, Latino authors, white authors, Arab American authors and Asian authors to experience the incredible diversity of California and to get to know the students in there.
I can’t overstate their incredible strength. I mean, everyone has a story of how they came to be at UCI, and usually it’s a story that involves one or more generations of striving, of people attempting to make themselves better off, more educated.”
Julio TorresAssistant professor of Spanish & Portuguese
Noteworthy achievements include: Director of the Spanish language program and the new minor in Spanish/English bilingual education.
Quote: “What students gather from writing courses specifically designed for Latinx students who grew up speaking Spanish is a sort of validation of their identity, especially for first-gen students who are leaving home and coming to a university environment that can be somewhat intimidating. The reality of these students coming together, sharing a common linguistic experience, is very powerful because they see that they’re not the only ones. I think it connects them with a ‘family,’ and we know that students who establish these types of support networks end up staying and graduating. That validation – and sharing it with others – goes a long way.”
In addition to incredible faculty-mentors, the UCI School of Humanities offers a variety of exciting academic and extracurricular opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to research and engage with Latin America. From the history of Latin America and its diaspora to Spanish literature--the school offers a breadth of academic possibilities through its various departments, including the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. In addition, the school is home to the Latin American Studies Center, which brings together an active and interdisciplinary group of faculty and students to study Latin America and to organize educational activities on Latin America.