New position eases strain on Latino outreach office

After the Office of Hispanic/Latino Student Outreach has seen two outreach coordinators leave in the last year and a half, the university has created a new job to ease the position’s workload.

The outreach coordinator was responsible both for recruiting Hispanic/Latino students and for supporting them on campus. Now, two people will be doing what was the job of one.

Hispanic Studies Prof. Laura LaBauve-Maher will serve as acting coordinator of Hispanic/Latino Student Services. She will act as a liaison between Latino students and other university departments and also as Alianza’s adviser. Elizabeth Enciso, who was hired about six weeks ago, will serve as co-coordinator of Latino recruitment.

LaBauve-Maher replaces Beatrice Figueroa, who this summer transferred to DePaul University to pursue a master’s degree. Figueroa replaced Maria Perez Laubhan, who unexpectedly resigned in April 1999, citing minimal support from the university to ease her workload.

Because LaBauve-Maher can focus all her efforts on support instead of recruitment, she said she hopes to build a strong Latino community where new students will feel welcome.

“The key to recruitment at Northwestern is to build a community,” said LaBauve-Maher, who has been teaching in the Hispanic Studies department since 1996.

And one of the ways to increase Latinos’ presence on campus, she said, is through Hispanic Heritage Month programming. LaBauve-Maher is planning a series of dialogues titled “Soy Yo” in which students can discuss their identities and experiences.

She also plans to educate the greater NU community about Latino history and culture through a cinema club in which faculty members will showcase movies about Latin American issues. One of her first goals, however, is to meet with every Latino freshman over the next few months. And she hopes to see even more than this year’s 80 freshmen next year.

Enciso, co-coordinator of Latino recruitment, has been visiting high schools across the country to develop relationships with potential students. She also hopes to incorporate current NU students in the recruitment process.

“The Latino community is very interested in helping to recruit Latino students,” Enciso said. “It’s an important tie that really should show some positive effects.”

Rachel Lopez, Associated Student Government senator for Alianza, said adding staff is a small but important step for NU, where Latino enrollment is far behind the numbers in the United States. Alianza needs to reach out more and make the university an attractive choice for potential students, said Lopez, who participated in the admissions office phone drive for accepted Latino applicants.

“We’re really excited about the changes,” said Lopez, a Weinberg sophomore. “We’re trying to step things up with the Latino community.”

And LaBauve-Maher said there is almost a sense of urgency to do so because Latino culture is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. Alianza members and other students on campus need to harness that popularity and make their presence better known.

“The group of Latino students coming into the university right now is on the verge of something really big,” LaBauve-Maher said.