Event provides platform to share experiences, stories and professional advice
THE SANTA CLARA
October 20, 2016
Speaking on a panel last week, Latinx and Chicanx alums expressed the importance of their ethnic identity—as a source of strength and guidance—in shaping their adult lives and professional careers.
Coordinated by the Office of Multicultural Learning and the Latinx/Chicanx Alumni Chapter, Santa Clara graduates discussed their professional and personal journeys with current students on an Oct. 12 panel held in Donohoe Hall.
Asked by students about their current careers, panelists elaborated by sharing their motivations and successes.
Rosalina Zepeda, class of 1994, is the founder of the Latina Success Network and the chief communication empowerment officer at Compelling Conversations Training and Consulting. Zepeda said that as “a very white looking Latina” people questioned her ethnicity, spurring her desire to educate people about her roots. She added that has had to overcome stereotypes she faced as a Santa Clara student and later as a professional on Wall Street.
José Lujano, class of 2014, is a native of East San Jose. Lujano combined his passion for community outreach and public service as a policy analyst for San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. Lujano said that despite the large Latino presence in San Jose, Latinos remain an underrepresented community in politics.
“You’d be surprised how little the community input is taken into account,” Lujano said. “I feel like my role in that office has been to bring up these issues and explain my experience because even though it’s just my experience it’s the lived experience of many people in my community.”
Emmanuel Mendoza, class of 2010, is a building inspector in Palo Alto and works in a construction industry of predominantly Latinx laborers. Mendoza said that Latinx underrepresentation in management and engineering positions is an issue. He also spoke about his observations of the language barrier that separates laborers and management, creating obstacles in daily operations.
“Now that I’m an inspector it’s even more unique because I’m the only Latino inspector in Palo Alto,” Mendoza said. “When I do an inspection a lot of people can communicate with me and feel comfortable doing the inspection.”
Sharon Benítez, class of 2013, is the performing arts coordinator at Movimiento de Cultura y Arte Latino Americana (MACLA). She said she enjoys representing Latinx artists and advancing their social advocacy, particularly on issues of homelessness and immigration.
“In the art world, in the galleries, you don’t see work by people of color as much, especially in prestigious museums,” Benítez said. “Through their work and through those mediums we are able to take those conversations to a level where there isn’t often representation.”
Connie Castillo, class of 1994, works as a human resources officer for Apple and started a mentorship program to address the underrepresentation of Latinxs within the successful tech giant. One of her major accomplishments was connecting high school students from East San Jose with Apple employees, exposing them to high technology.
Panelists attributed their professional success to networking and involvement in the campus community, from M.E.C.H.A. to the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers (SHPE).
“Keep an open-mind,” Zepeda said to students. “One of the key defining things about leaders is their flexibility.”
Danielle Aguilar, the assistant director for the Office of Multicultural Learning, helped coordinate the panel in honor of Chicanx/Latinx heritage month. She said that while it is traditionally celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Santa Clara is instead observing it for the entire month of October.
“As Latinos we have this amazing need to give back,” Zepeda said. “Psychologically, sociologically, we come from very collective communities.”
The next event for Chicanx/Latinx Heritage Month will be a presentation on Oct. 24 by guest speaker Alan Pelaez about Undocumented, Black and Indigenous Latinxs. It will be held at 7 p.m. in Benson Parlors B and C.