Waiting for the opening of MU’s Latino studies center has been “similar to waiting for the birth of a new baby,” Handy Williamson, vice provost for international programs and faculty development, said at a Tuesday ribbon-cutting for the Cambio Center.
Forces behind the center’s creation, including Williamson, planned, prepared, budgeted and even spruced up a spare room during the past three years as they waited for the Cambio Center to come to fruition.
Until the opening at 301 Gentry Hall, MU was one of two Big 12 schools without a Latino studies program or center (the other is the University of Oklahoma).
Domingo Martinez, the center’s coordinator, said it will work to fulfill the university’s land-grant mission — to increase the welfare of the people of the state by providing research, education and outreach.
The center is the result of the first statewide “Cambio de Colores” — change of colors — conference series in 2002, organized by the Hispanic and Latin-American Faculty and Staff Association at MU. The conference has become an annual occurrence.
“Cambio de Colores ... brings people together to share, learn, discuss and connect on the needs and opportunities of our changing communities and our Latino newcomers,” saidCorinne Valdivia, an MU professor and one of the original conference planners.
In the October issue of Adelante, a bilingual publication of the Missourian, Interim Provost Lori Franz said: “This center will create new knowledge and practice aimed toward welcoming Latino immigrants. The center will serve both the changing communities of Missouri and the changing student body of MU.”
The center will also lead the organization of the next Cambio de Colores conference March 30 -April 1 and submit proposals to secure money for research and outreach activities — which Martinez said he hopes will lead to curriculum development.
“Eventually, in the not-so-distant future, we hope MU will offer courses in Latino studies,” he said.
At the ceremony, Franz announced she received a tentative announcement from the UM system of a $200,000 allocation to the Cambio Center. The center will receive $50,000 a year during the next four years to pursue its mission.