Students, faculty and staff came together by forming “familias,” while discovering their individual cultural identities at the Latino student retreat on Nov. 8.
More than 20 people attended the fall retreat, designed to help the University’s students become better acquainted with faculty and staff and discuss any questions and concerns they had regarding their experience at ULV.
“You don’t need to identify as a Latino or Latina to participate,” Rosalilia Gradilla, intercultural program coordinator, said. “This is a great way for all students to hear the needs of the community and support each other.”
The retreat consisted primarily of reflective exercises that were designed to help students find their cultural identity within the La Verne community. By discovering their cultural identity, Gradilla believes it will enhance their La Verne experience and their future as well.
“The exercises are geared to connect and engage students and show them how it is to be a Latino or Latina. Although we are all from the same Latino culture, we do not necessarily share the same cultural identity,” Gradilla said.
After lunch, students, faculty and staff proceeded into LaFetra and broke out into their familia, family, groups and began the first exercise, which was a cultural identity interview.
Group members interviewed one another and helped each other discover how they identify with the Latino community. They asked questions regarding their participation in cultural traditions and how their college experience has affected their cultural understanding.
“Even within the same cultures there are different variations and connotations and everyone perceives things differently,” Edwin Escobar, a freshmen computer science major and retreat attendee, said. “These exercises help everyone understand how diverse the University is as well as the world.”
After the cultural identity exercise, the “familias” came back together and formed a communidad, or community, and people shared their experience and revealed how they identified with the community.
“I’ve been through this experience before with other cultural retreats on campus and most of them use the same exercises, but group input makes each cultural experience unique,” Bryan Torres, a senior anthropology major and office of multicultural affairs employee, said.
A three-person panel consisting of a University student, faculty and staff member answered the retreat attendees’ questions after the exercises. Many students asked questions pertaining to the future and how to utilize their cultural identity to succeed.
“We purposefully put a student, faculty and staff member on the panel, so that way questions could be answered from each perspective,” Gradilla said.
The concluding exercise at the retreat was the Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats (SWOT) analysis. The exercise allowed students to discuss topics by categorizing different elements within the Latino culture as strength, a weakness, an opportunity or a threat. One of the discussion topics was academic success. Students stated what they felt was a strength within the culture to achieving academic success, a weakness, an opportunity and a threat.
“The SWOT analysis was helpful because it allowed me to see what is helping me and what is holding me back,” Crystal Parga, a sophomore psychology major and event attendee, said.
The office of multicultural services will be hosting their weekend long Latino retreat in spring and Gradilla hopes the event will bring the community together and help more people discover their cultural identity.
Liz Ortiz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.