WNMU Hispanic Heritage Month

Western New Mexico University will create a series of profiles celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and Hispanic Serving Institution Week. A profile a week will be posted between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, 2019. It may be continued in 2020 with more profiles. 

 dsc3075 5 Dr. Illya Medina Encourages Students To Be Proud of Their HeritageSilver City, NM – Dr. Illya Medina came to the U.S. as a 30-year-old Ph.D. student. She now teaches in the WNMU Natural Sciences Department, advising exchange students from Mexico and Hispanic students from the U.S. on how to get the most out of their experiences at WNMU.

As someone who migrated to the U.S. for education, she understands, “the cultural transition and the language barrier can be challenging.”

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Silver City, NM – “Being a Hispanic Serving Institution means creating a hospitable environment for any student, specifically our Hispanic population, and also serving as a role model,” says WNMU Assistant Director of Mariachi Plata, Media Technology Services Manager, MEChA sponsor, piano instructor, and Staff Senate President Michael T. Acosta. “It’s about showing our students it’s OK to be successful and pursue whatever dreams they have.”

To Michael, WNMU’s designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution is more than a label. He makes sure he’s always willing to get to know students and help them navigate campus life. “I like to learn students’ names as quickly as possible. I offer to help with things outside of my job duties. If they need a guide to financial aid or need somebody to walk them to the business office, I do it.”

As a sponsor of MEChA, the student group that hosted last week’s Chicano Street Fest on campus, Michael helps “students to voice their opinions and be politically active without associating with a political party while maintaining the interests of the Hispanic population.”

In his role as Assistant Director of Mariachi Plata, Michael takes his responsibility to recruit students to WNMU seriously. “This is a safe environment for the Hispanic culture, and we do a lot to make students and their parents feel at home. We know there needs to be a personal touch,” he says.

Overall, Mariachi Plata has been an avenue for interaction with students who may not have had the extra assistance to get into a university or continue their educations once admitted, Michael says. “It’s allowed us to develop a bond with students so they know they have somebody to fall back on when times are tough. We’ve been successful in keeping students around.”

This piece is part of a series WNMU produced in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and Hispanic Serving Institution Week.

For 125 years, Western New Mexico University has served the people in its region as a comprehensive, rural, public body. As a Hispanic-Serving Institution and the state’s only public Applied Liberal Arts and Sciences university, WNMU is committed to developing cross-cultural opportunities that encourage people to explore new experiences. The WNMU student body represents every segment of southwest New Mexico’s diverse population.

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Silver City, NM – Abe Villarreal, Western New Mexico University Assistant Dean of Student Support, is an alumnus and a current student. “I study educational leadership and love the program,” he says. “WNMU is where I grew up as a young adult, and it’s been my bread and butter for the last 11 years. I love that students have the chance to discover themselves here.”

Being part of a Hispanic Serving Institution is important to Abe. “Of course, I’m Hispanic. I grew up in a border community. My roots are in Mexico. I really value that the designation puts a special focus on a community that has historically not had the opportunities for academic success. We should take that seriously and create programming to serve that community,” he says.

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Dr. Miguel Vicéns Contributest to Hispanic Serving Institution Designation in 2019

Silver City, NM – Western New Mexico University School of Business Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Finance Dr. Miguel Vicéns works to make WNMU’s designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution meaningful. “One of the reasons we reach out to these communities is we usually do not see college as their path,” he says. “It’s a blessing to be able to be part of that.”

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Silver City, NM – Secondary education student Darlene Chavez is a senior at Western New Mexico University. She serves as President of the Associated Students of WNMU and works as an education assistant at Aldo Leopold Charter School.

“From Deming, I chose WNMU for the music program, Mariachi Plata. After a while it became convenient that it was close to home. I didn’t have to move out,” she says.