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ILS celebrates 10th anniversary

Puja Parikh | Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Institute for Latino Studies (ILS) celebrates the 10th anniversary of its creation today by holding an academic symposium entitled “Latino Studies: Past Present and Future” in the McKenna Hall auditorium.

The event, which will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will feature several prominent speakers, including the keynote address by Fr. Virgillo Elizondo, professor of pastoral and Hispanic theology. The symposium is moderated by Fr. Daniel Groody, assistant professor of theology.

Cliberto Cardenas, ILS director, Julian Samora, professor of Latino studies, Allert Brown-Gort, ILS associate director, Ramona Hernandez, Jose Limon, Maria Cristina Garcia, Alicia Gaspar De Alba, Silvio torres-Saillant, Arlene Davilla, and Roberto Goizueta will be featured as panelists.

“One of the things we feel we have done here is create a new vision for Latino studies outside of the ethnic studies paradigm,” Brown-Gort said. “Now, we have to ask ourselves some questions. Where are we going to from here as the demographics in the US change? What can we do for the University?”

The 10th anniversary celebration began on Monday with the screening of the film “A Forgotten Injustice,” a documentary that tells the story of two million Mexican-Americans and United States citizens who were forced to leave the United States during the Great Depression due to their ethnicity. The film was chosen by a Notre Dame student leader from the Latino group on campus, Movimiento Estudiantial Chicano de Aztlan de Notre Dame.

“Our goal is to serve the whole university,” Brown-Gort said. “We can serve the whole university directly by some of the work we do. We also affect Notre Dame in obvious ways. One of the things we aim to do is be a place for community. We want to be a place where Latino people can be happy and feel comfortable.”

Julian Samora, a professor of sociology, founded the ILS in 1999 in order to foster understanding of the U.S.-Latino experience.

“The Institute supports interdisciplinary initiatives in Latino studies as a key component of the University’s academic mission,” Zoe Samora, the ILS publications manager, said. “By advancing research, expanding knowledge and strengthening community, the Institute is true to the mission, tradition, and distinctively Catholic values of Notre Dame.”

“Students, alumni and faculty were really complaining that there was no representation for a group that were becoming increasingly important to the Catholic Church,” Brown-Gort said. “So the ILS was created as a result of the wishes of alumni and students. The University also understands that we can help the University with their mission.”

Due to these initiatives, the ILS program has helped Notre Dame consistently rank amongst the top 25 Colleges for Latino. Currently, the program has 23 students enrolled, comprised of both Latino and non-Latino individuals.

“What has me the most excited is that so many of our students are not Latino,” Brown-Gort said. “So many faculty are not Latino, so many counselors are not Latino, but they are people that understand the basic proposition on why were are here. We are here to help the university become a leader and understand how a rapidly emerging population will be integrated into American lives. Not only for the benefit of Latinos, but for all.”

Then anniversary celebration continues Thursday with a literary presentation entitled “Sharing our Stories, Sharing our Poem,” featuring award-winning poet Orlando Ricardo Menes and poet, novelist, and activist Alicia Gaspar de Alba at 9:30am in McKenna Hall.