Students from different backgrounds came together to celebrate the launching of a new Hispanic and Latinx graduate student group Thursday night.
The Graduate Students Association, Hispanic/Latinx Graduate Students Association and the Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars hosted a launching party called the “UCLA After Hours” at the W Los Angeles hotel in Westwood. The event celebrated the HLGSA joining the GSA Student Interest Board, which consists of graduate student groups representing different communities, including African-American students and international students.
GSA President Michael Skiles said the forum decided to officially add HLGSA to the Student Interest Board during Wednesday’s meeting to better represent the Hispanic and Latinx community within GSA.
“The GSA has had a couple of subgroups to represent certain demographics among our (graduate) student community,” Skiles said. “I, as the first person of Hispanic origin to be GSA president in over a decade, thought that we should have a Hispanic graduate student association as well.”
Skiles added there has not been a formal space for Hispanic and Latinx graduate students to come together and hopes HLGSA can change that.
“When (Hispanic/Latinx communities) have come together as a community it has always been informally, it has always been out of our own pockets and it has always been in small groups,” Skiles said. “So, I am so thrilled to finally see a concerted effort to bring us all together and celebrate all our community has to offer.”
Arely Briseno, vice president of external affairs for HLGSA, said she was initially surprised that there had been no organization representing Hispanic and Latinx graduate students.
“I could not believe that we were not being represented at the graduate level. There are so many of us, and we live in such a diverse city,” she said.
Briseno said she thinks HLGSA will bring together individuals in the community and added the group plans to collaborate with the Armenian and African-American graduate student associations on upcoming events.
Ernesto Arsiniega, president of HLGSA, said the group plans to bring more diversity and inclusivity to GSA by holding more programs. For example, it plans to host a writer from Peru during winter 2018 and hold a Cinco de Mayo event in spring 2018, he said.
Arsiniega said HLGSA collaborated with the Dashew Center to hold Thursday’s event because 12 percent of UCLA’s Hispanic and Latinx graduate community consists of international students from a number of Latin American nations and Spain.
“We want students from Spain, Central America, the Caribbean and all parts of Latin America to come together and share their cultures and experiences not only in academics but in life as a whole,” he said.
The HLGSA awarded its first annual Hispanic Person of the Year award to Sofia del Prado, the 2017 Miss Universe Spain. The award recognizes individuals who have made a positive contribution to the Hispanic and Latinx community, Arsiniega said.
The association awarded Prado for her advocacy work against bullying and for her positive representation of the global Hispanic and Latinx community, Briseno said.
Students who attended the event said they enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the international community and celebrate HLGSA.
Christian Green, a graduate student in African-American studies, said he thinks graduate student diversity needs to be better represented on campus and that the HLGSA will help accomplish that.