In case you’re reading my blog for the first time, here‘s the link to the first part of this blog series!
The involvement formula is different for every student and while there are more than 1,000 clubs out there, I’m going to highlight some of the most well-known clubs available for minorities. Multicultural and Diversity Affairs is a part of Student Affairs, one of the biggest offices of UF. MCDA is the biggest advocate for marginalized voices at UF and oversees various different programs such as Hispanic-Latino Affairs, Black Affairs, Asian Pacific Islander Affairs, and LGBTQ Affairs.
I met the interim executive director of MCDA, William Atkins, last semester when he was the assistant director of MFOS and my professor for First Year Florida. He would listen to me when I needed to talk about how hard it was transitioning to a PWI (predominantly white institution) and how the election had personally affected me. Seeing him in charge of MCDA gives me comfort because he actually cares about the students here at UF, especially minorities. Hopefully he is hired to become the executive director full time because he is a great asset to the University of Florida.
While the presence of Hispanic-Latinos on campus is on a rise, representation is drastically low. UF’s Student Government has been around since 1909 but the first Latina president wasn’t elected until 2015, that’s 106 years… During the campaign of Gil Sanchez, the first Latino to run for SG president in 2002, La Casita, a safe space for Hispanic-Latino students, had the phrase “No Spics for President” spray painted on the house. It’s only been 15 years since that incident… Representation may be low but morale isn’t and Hispanic-Latino Affairs fosters a sense of familia for its students.
Gabe Lara, the director of HLA, is a new addition but a wonderful fit. I didn’t even know he was new because he fit in so well, and is so welcoming to new students. One of the first times I’ve ever talked to him he made me lip-sync to Selena’s “Como La Flor” and oh man, he will never let me live that down. It might seem like I have the “in” with these high-level officials but honestly, everyone in MCDA is so down-to-earth and definitely approachable. He has a great hand in planning different programs geared for Hispanic-Latino students.
Opportunities for Hispanic-Latino students
Latino Educational Advancement Program – I’ve briefly mentioned this program before since I’m currently in it but let me go into detail about what the program does. LEAP is “designed to assist first-year Hispanic/Latino freshmen acclimate to college.” It gives freshmen the opportunity to meet other Hispanic-Latino freshmen and receive guidance from an upperclassman or grad student mentor. Changes are coming to the program for instance, it’ll now be a semester-long program instead of just five weeks. Workshops include learning different ways to study, managing your time, and realizing that your grades aren’t a reflection of your worth as a person (something that I still need to understand).
Hispanic Student Association – HSA is a student organization under HLA. The biggest difference between HLA and HSA is that HSA is student-ran meanwhile HLA is an official branch of MCDA. Under HSA, there are even more clubs that you can join. PorColombia, the club I’m in, is under HSA which means that it’s basically HSA’s baby that it funds. HSA also is home to Argentine Student Association, Dominican Student Association, Venezuelan Student Association, and way more (just click on the link above). HSA brings together the different sub-organizations and cultures together into and represents the majority of Hispanic students on campus. HSA has had various demonstrations on campus to break down stereotypes and to show solidarity to all Hispanic students.
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers – This organization is aimed towards Hispanic students studying in the areas of math, science and/or engineering. They reach out to local Gainesville high schools to help encourage Hispanic students that this is something they can actually do instead of just dream of doing. SHPE holds various socials and philanthropy events so it is a great way to meet other students with the same career goals while making a difference in the community.
Hispanic Communicators Association – Similar to SHPE, HCA is geared towards Hispanic students focusing their study into the communications field and mass media. This student org isn’t under HLA’s supervision but the J-School’s, the college of Journalism and communications. This club comes out with a magazine every semester called Com(m)unícate written by Hispanic-Latino students in both Spanish and English. It’s a great way to meet other minority students in a field where the majority of the actual professionals are white males.
CHISPAS – This program “focuses on immigrant rights and immigrant advocacy” which is something that I am extremely passionate about. I’ve seen that the majority of this club is geared towards undocumented students here at UF. It creates a safe space for undocumented students. Especially after this current election, there has been this tension towards undocumented immigration across the nation. This tension was very noticeable the week following the election and so HSA and CHISPAS hosted a solidarity event to lift spirits up. A lot of undocumented students don’t know that they can go to college and while it is difficult, it is possible and plausible.
Multicultural Greek Council – According to their website, the primary purpose of the MGC is to unite its member organizations in order to share ideas and provide a support network for students. There are 14 Greek chapters: seven sororities where two are Latina-based and seven fraternities where two are Latino-based.
- Lambda Theta Alpha ΛΘA – This is the first ever Latin-based sorority ever in the nation established in 1975. The “notorious” Chi chapter here at UF was founded before MGC was even a thing. It is because of the hard work of the Lambda ladies creating a committee with Lambda Theta Phi, Sigma Lambda Beta and Sigma Lambda Gamma, that the existence of MGC came to be. ΛΘA prides themselves for being academic-based and empowering women in higher education. On their homepage it states, “though we pride ourselves in being a Latina sorority, we welcome and embrace sisters of all backgrounds.”
- Gamma Eta ΓH – Gamma Eta is a social sorority and I found out so many cool things while reading their website. The “herstory” of the chapter started at UF, the first social sorority to ever be founded at UF, and while it’s relatively “new” (est. 1995) it has gained the attention and respect of the Gator community through its service and academic standards. I’ve seen so many Gamma Etas around campus and many of them are heavily involved with HLA. Everyone that is in the chapter is Hispanic in some way whether it is a mix of nationalities like Chinese/Cuban or solely just one nationality like Dominican but you do not have to be a Latina to join!
- Sigma Lambda Beta ƩΛB- Known around campus as UF Betas. They are part of the founding chapters in forming MGC with ΛΘA. “Membership has expanded far beyond its Hispanic-Latino origins to include men from cultures around the world making ƩΛB one of the most culturally diverse Greek Lettered Organizations.” I have met a lot of Beta brothers and all of them loved their brotherhood and have garnered a lot of respect with HLA.
- Lambda Theta Phi ΛΘΦ – Known around campus as UF Lambdas. While they weren’t the first Latino fraternity at UF, ΛΘΦ was the first Latino fraternity in the nation. The UF chapter of ΛΘΦ was the first chapter established in the south. I personally love how they describe opening a chapter at UF: New World of the Brown Brotherhood. I think this slogan is brilliant and it was created in response to the “social segregation they found so overwhelming at the University of Florida,” according to their page on MGC’s website. The brotherhood here is strong as well and have a tradition that their newest members must shave their heads before becoming a full-fledged member.
- There is a multicultural sorority (Theta Nu Xi – ΘNΞ) and a multicultural fraternity (Omega Delta Phi – ΩΔΦ) that focuses on including all races and ethnicity. Theta Nu Xi was founded because Melissa Jo Murchison-Blake didn’t want to join a predominantly white or historically black sorority because she felt as if she was “denying half of her heritage.” Omega Delta Phi was created as a service Latino-based fraternity that expanded their message to become a multicultural service fraternity.
There are so many other opportunities that are geared towards Hispanic-Latino students that I didn’t even know where to begin! I guarantee there is a club for everyone and even if you can’t find a home with a club created by and for Hispanic students, there’s over 900 other clubs to choose from. Even if you’re not Hispanic-Latino, you can join these organizations just as long as you are open and ready to embrace diversity.
I know I said I would write about opportunities offered to other marginalized voices and I definitely will for my next blog post, but there was so much I wanted to try and mention for my fellow Hispanic-Latino peers. While we should positively acclimate moving to a predominantly white institution and therefore city, we shouldn’t forget our roots since our roots are what made us who we’re are today.