COLUMBIA — The board members of MU's "HLAFSA" were tired of people getting confused at the jumbled letters of their organization's name, and decided last year that it was time for a change.
In September, members of the organization voted, and the MU Hispanic Latin American Faculty and Staff Association was set to be renamed MU Voz Latina, effective Thursday.
“HLAFSA is very representative of what we are, but probably one of the issues was that because it’s just the initials, sometimes people were wondering, ‘What does this mean?’” said Irma Arteaga, a staff representative, assistant professor at MU and a native of Peru.
The new name, which translates to Latino Voice, is meant to be more inclusive with the community, said President Miguel Ayllón, an MU study abroad adviser who is also from Peru.
“For the most part, regardless if (someone) speaks English or not, they will understand it,” Ayllón said. “It will appeal to their hearts. We represent the Latino faculty and the Latino staff, but with the change of name we also get closer to the community.”
Along with a name change, the organization changed logos, websites and its social media use. Voz Latina will be hosting an open house Thursday to celebrate the changes. The event will include guest speakers and traditional Latino food, including tamales and tres leches cake, according to a news release from Voz Latina.
The organization, which formed in 1999, currently has 75 active members. The free membership is open to faculty, staff and students, and is not limited to Latinos.
A factor in deciding to revitalize the organization was a recent stagnation in membership, despite earlier momentum, Ayllón said. He partially attributes the stagnation to natural transitions in leadership, and said these types of obstacles are something many MU organizations must face.
Voz Latina will work to bring members of the Hispanic and Latino community together in Columbia. Arteaga said it was a vital part of her becoming connected at MU.
“Especially being in a small town, it’s very important to have this connection,” Arteaga said.
In the past, the group has worked with Hispanic and Latino undergraduate and graduate organizations, and Ayllón said he hopes to strengthen that connection now.
“We want to support them, encourage them, build them up, mentor them and work with them,” he said. “In the past we have done some mixer events where we have faculty, staff and students hanging out together, talking about potential projects and recommendation letters.”
The organization will continue to provide social events for its own members, like a picnic in September during National Hispanic Awareness Month and an end-of-the semester gathering in December.
Ayllón said the organization will be starting meetings called mesa de diálogo, which translates to "dialogue table." At these meetings, members of the organization and community can bring up academic or professional projects or simply just tell their personal story.
“We want to do social events because as Latinos we cherish community, family and being together, but we also want to address the academic and professional needs that we have,” Ayllón said.
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