Virginia Tech Latinx Symposium to Highlight Creativity and Community

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students gather at an event at El Centro, the university’s Hispanic and Latinx Cultural and Community Center. From left, Juan Jose Monsalve, Alejandra Rosado, and Jose Santiago-Rivera.
Students gather at an event at El Centro, the university’s Hispanic and Latinx Cultural and Community Center. From left, graduate students Juan José Monsalve, Alejandra Rosado, and José Santiago-Rivera.

On Oct. 25, the first Virginia Tech Latinx Symposium will showcase the work of the university’s Latinx population in an effort to increase awareness about the Latinx and Hispanic academic experience.

“In the current political and social climate, talking about Hispanic or Latinx people can carry negative connotations and trigger stereotypes,” said Carlos Evia, an associate professor in the Department of Communication and co-chair of the symposium. “In reality, the Latino and Latina population in the United States is quite diverse and defies generalizations.”

The principal goal of the symposium, Evia added, “is to highlight the work of the diverse group of individuals who identify as Latinx or Hispanic on our campus. Our contributions include innovative approaches to teaching and research and unique perspectives in the classroom, the lab, and the local and global communities in which we work.”

Carlos Evia, co-chair of the Latinx Symposium, stands amid the swirl of El Centro, Virginia Tech’s Hispanic and Latinx Cultural Center, during a luncheon for students.
Carlos Evia, co-chair of the Latinx Symposium, stands amid the swirl of El Centro, Virginia Tech’s Hispanic and Latinx Cultural Center, during a luncheon for students.

The Latinx Symposium will offer students, faculty, and staff lectures, student poster sessions, networking opportunities, and professional development panels. Keynote speakers include Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs, a professor of modern languages and cultures at Seattle University; Jennifer Lozano, an assistant professor of English at the University of North Carolina Wilmington; and Rafael Davalos, the L. Preston Wade Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at Virginia Tech.

José Santiago-Rivera, a doctoral student in chemistry, believes the symposium will showcase diversity at Virginia Tech. Santiago-Rivera, who focuses on the study of synthetic and medicinal chemistry, is originally from Puerto Rico.

“Even as a U.S. citizen,” he said, “I experienced culture shock when I first moved to Blacksburg. I’m hoping the symposium will help raise awareness of the cultural differences and challenges that students can face.”

Katrina Colucci-Chang enjoys the student luncheon at El Centro.
Katrina Colucci-Chang, a biomedical engineering doctoral student based in the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, enjoys the student luncheon at El Centro.

The symposium is designed to foster an inclusive community of knowledge, discovery, and creativity, Evia added.

“The symposium is connected to bigger Virginia Tech initiatives, such as Tech for Humanity and the Destination Area focused on Equity and Social Disparity for the Human Condition,” Evia said. “We are putting human faces from an underrepresented group to the research, teaching, and service projects that make Virginia Tech such a strong university.”

Student faces will literally be in the foreground of both a panel of diverse student experiences and poster presentations.

“This symposium is important because in our community we do value education, but sometimes we don’t have the background or the support,” said Yaritza Gallegos Ruvalcaba, a senior majoring in systems biology. As a first-generation college student, she values seeing members of her community who have led successful careers, especially in the science fields, participate in an event like the Virginia Tech Latinx Symposium.

The 2019 Virginia Tech Latinx Symposium is partially sponsored by 38 donors who participated in a campaign through JUMP, Virginia Tech’s crowdfunding platform. The event’s organizers include co-chair Carmen Giménez Smith, a professor in the Department of English, and coordinator Veronica Montes, director of El Centro, Virginia Tech’s Hispanic and Latinx Cultural Center.

The symposium will take place on Oct. 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Old Dominion Ballroom in Squires Student Center.

Written by Kate Hardin — a senior majoring in biochemistry, chemistry, and communication studies — and photographed by Leslie King