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Campus & Community

New Voice for a Campus 'Comunidad'

Latinx Employee Association Will Offer Support, Advocacy for UMD’s Latinx Faculty and Staff

By Maggie Haslam

illustration of two happy people speaking through bullhorns

A new faculty-staff association launched this fall will support and advocate for Latinx/e/a/o employees at UMD.

Illustration by iStock

Despite a wealth of benefits afforded to university employees, accessing them is not the same for everyone. For some, language barriers, job locations and work hours can determine whether an employee can take advantage of an opportunity, attend a campus event, or further their professional development.

A new association launched this fall will support and advocate for more inclusive processes and opportunities for Latinx/e/a/o employees working at the University of Maryland. The Latinx Employee Association (LEA) is the first association that brings together the needs and interests of these communities on campus.

“Whenever there is the implementation of a policy at UMD that has the potential to impact the members of our community, we will have a seat at the table,” said family science Professor Mariana Falconier. “We can be that bridge.”

Latinx employees on campus began organically connecting decades ago, meeting over informal coffees and building a word-of-mouth network 200-plus strong (the university does not require employees to disclose their ethnicity so it is not known how many people of Hispanic background work at UMD). An outgrowth of those efforts after years of groundwork by faculty and staff, the LEA will provide opportunities for Latinx faculty and staff to connect and grow professionally, and offer a unified voice for Latinx employees. The association is open to any UMD staff or faculty with an affinity for the Latinx community, with membership affordable by design—just $20 for the year.

Several of the association’s short-term objectives will be to work with university officials to make employee communications and services available in Spanish, formulate policy in a more culturally sensitive way and build awareness among leadership of the unique obstacles facing many Latinx employees.

“There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit that we can access and help give employees more support,” said environmental science and technology Senior Lecturer and LEA Board Chair Jose-Luis Izursa.

Other goals include the recruitment and retention of Latinx employees, and to offer training, professional development opportunities and networking events. The association also hopes to showcase faculty outreach and research within Latinx communities surrounding the university and help educate colleagues working within these spaces to help them understand and be more sensitive to cultural differences.

Nurturing the growing number of first-generation college students on campus through mentorship and other opportunities like scholarships and financial assistance is another focus of the group, said Falconier.

“For students who are first-generation college students, there is a real struggle to balance keeping their employment and also finding time to study,” she said. “Supporting them is critical to their success, but we want to be able to show them successful faculty and staff who look like them, who have similar backgrounds. It’s an important model.”

LEA’s long-term impact, said Falconier, will be in bringing visibility to the often-unseen contributions of the campus Latinx community; the vast majority of service staff at the university, including housekeeping, food service, groundskeeping and facilities is Latinx.

“The reality is that many times we see things happening, and where are we in all of this?” she said. “We want our contributions to be known and celebrated, but also have the opportunity to contribute.”

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.