Latinos Prepare for the Next Century
at Cal State University Monterey Bay

Photos by janjaap


"We are faced with the necessity of evolving and dealing with evolution," says Luis Valdez. "The challenges have only begun."


"My whole commitment has been to have the Latino population have as many opportunities as possible." Cecilia Burciaga, Director of Long Range Planning






From Gonzalez to San José the Latino population is growing. The majority of this population has historically been under-educated, representative of the low-income working class. But the 21st century is upon us and Latinos are rising fast. One of the most important tools in the struggle for economic empowerment is education.


DR. STEVEN ARVIZU When the founders of California State University Monterey Bay set about planning its interdisciplinary centers, coursework and hiring of faculty, they envisioned a college of the future, the "21st campus for the 21st century." That campus needed to reflect the population and cultures of California, not just in enrollment but also in planning and staff. It was to include innovative, multicultural programs, world language learning and community collaborative studies.

"Latinos are full partners in the development of this campus," said Dr. Steven Arvizu, Provost, "as are Blacks, Native Americans, and women. People need to understand that this is a global campus, open and welcoming to all learners."

CECILIA BURCIAGA Cecilia Burciaga, Director of Long Range Planning and Executive Assistant to the President, sees CSUMB as a "new opportunity for the children of Santa Cruz, Salinas, Monterey and San Benito Counties. My whole commitment both professionally and personally really has been to have the Latino population have as many opportunities as possible."

Arvizu and Burciaga, both Latinos, agree that this campus reflects the Latino population well. The campus has 31.5 percent full-time Latino faculty members, not including part-time faculty or staff. "We developed our staffing to deal with what the population wants...a variety of role models," said Arvizu.

Among these role models are faculty like Luis Valdez and Rina Benmayor. Valdez is the head of the Teledramatic Arts and Technology Program, and Benmayor currently teaches a class entitled "Latina Life Stories."

LUIS VALDEZ Valdez, who is a founder of El Teatro Campesino and a "working artist for the last 30 years," hesitates to narrowly define himself as Latino, saying that his participation is much deeper than such a label migh indicate. "We are faced with the necessity of evolving and dealing with evolution," said Valdez. "The challenges have only begun."

Valdez promotes the "Theater of the Future," a melding of multiculturalism and high technology. The Institute of Teledramatic Arts at CSUMB "sits at the nexus of Silicon Valley and Hollywood," said Valdez. This nexus will lead a graduate of CSUMB into the teledramatic arts of the future. "Technology is a working tool for all humanity," he said.

In Rina Benmayor's "Latina Life Stories" class, the tools are words, not technology; they are spoken, written, even visual. Though there are many Latinas enrolled, there are some non-Latina students as well. The course explores diverse personal accounts that speak of what it's like to be Chicana, Puertorriqueña, Cubana or Dominicana in the U.S., with an emphasis on the "politics of oppression and liberation." Students share their own stories and interview others. It is a class that lets a student discover "where you came from and where you are going."

This year's students will graduate just before we enter the 21st century, when Latinos will no longer be classified as a "minority" they will be the majority. In an era when affirmative action is fast going out of style, California State University Monterey Bay promises to reach out, to provide a learning center that serves California students from all cultural backgrounds.

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