WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., Sept. 17, 2021 — West Liberty University is observing Hispanic Heritage Month now through Oct. 15, as part of its Campus and Community Diversity Committee outreach.
“It’s important to recognize the influence of our Latino communities,” said Dr. Felipe Rojas, associate professor of Spanish in WLU’s Department of Humanities.
Hispanic and Latino people make up nearly 1 in 5 of the U.S. population, according to the latest U.S. Census numbers.
Rojas teaches Spanish to all level students and oversees the Spanish minor offered in WLU’s degree programs. He has created a large display case in the busy lower floor corridor of Elbin Library where classrooms and faculty offices are housed.
“Every day of the month I will be unveiling an important Hispanic figure for both the English and Spanish-speaking world. There will be information about each person on the picture display and there is a poster with helpful terms,” he said.
WLU’s Elbin Library is participating in the month-long observation by offering an appropriate book display that highlights Spanish and Hispanic literature.
The library also will receive a visit from West Liberty Elementary on Tuesday Sept. 21 as it welcomes kindergarten through second graders to campus. WLU students from the College of Education will assist with the students as Dr. Rojas reads stories to them and shares colorful flags while dressed in Chilean costume for the folk dance known as cueca.
Rojas will interact with the students at 9 and 10 a.m. and at 1 p.m.
Then on Thursday Oct. 7, grades 3-5 will visit and take part in a similar program introducing Hispanic culture to the children.
“I am grateful to Stacie Groch, head of library operations, who will assist me in the library programs,” Rojas said.
Later in the month, the Sodexo Marketplace (cafeteria) will invite the campus community to a typical Spanish/Hispanic dinner featuring special recipes to enjoy.
“We also hope to have pop-up activities that develop over the month and we look forward to seeing lots of staff, faculty and our students participate,” he said.
Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Begun nationally in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson, it was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period.
Enacted into law in 1988, the date of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30-day period.
WLU has international students from Spanish speaking countries including Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain and Venezuela.
The Campus and Community Diversity Committee meets throughout the academic year and is chaired by both Rojas and WLU’s Director of the Learning and Student Development Center Chris McPherson.
It is moderated by WLU’s Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Strategic Initiatives, Shemrico Stanley.
Staff members include: Emily D’Aquila, Izzy Bennett, Kate Billings, Kim Eisel, Ryan Glanville, Yodev Ocasio, Michelle Panepucci, Tammi Secrist, Cassandra Seth, Tasha Taylor and Jared Thompson.
Faculty members include: William Baronak, Hilary Bougher-Muckian, Lihua Chen, Terri Giller, Rebecca Meacham, Felipe Rojas, Amanda Tennant, Eveldora Wheeler and James Wood.
For more information on WLU, please call 1.866.WESTLIB or visit westliberty.edu.