CSULB’s Latinx Resource Center serves as home away from home

Published May 15, 2024

Tucked upstairs in Faculty Office 4, Room 263 is the Latinx Resource Center at Cal State Long Beach.

Paintings and posters decorate the walls, many of them honoring Latinx icons and civil rights leaders, while an assortment of flags celebrates the myriad cultures of students who have frequented the space over the past three decades.  

Inside the Latinx Resource Center

Students gather there at various times of the day. Many of them are from La F.U.E.R.Z.A., a student Latinx group.  

“There is a strong sense of community here,” said Emmily Barrera, a third-year sociology student and student assistant at the center. 

The Latinx Resource Center (LRC) serves the largest ethnic population on campus, which is approximately 52.1% of the enrolled undergraduate populace as of fall 2023, according to campus data. Since 1996, the center has not only provided a physical, safe space for Latinx students to convene, but it has also been a hub for them to study, relax, connect to campus resources and hold workshops and planning meetings. 

Student studying inside the Latinx Resource Center

The LRC offers students various physical resources: computers, printing, art supplies, Scantron sheets and “green books” for tests and class assignments.  

The lobby space includes a TV with Roku and couches. A kitchen area features a refrigerator, coffee station and snacks.  

The LRC also serves as a connection to important services on campus: academic resources, career advice and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).  

Each year, the LRC organizes the Chicano/Latino Cultural Graduation Celebration (along with the Latinx Student Union), a Latina Connection Conference and the Latinx Welcome to start fall semester. The graduation celebrations, scheduled for 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. May 18, sold out with 1,300 graduates and their families last year, and the event nearly sold out again this year.

“I’ve been able to meet a lot of people (here), and get more involved on campus,” said Ivonne Hernandez, a third-year nutrition student who is minoring in chemistry and serves as a research fellow for the LRC. “I’m a commuter, so ... the LRC has me feeling more connected, meeting new people, and building relationships with the faculty here.”

A brief history

The LRC’s origins date back to the 1960s, when United Mexican American Students formed in 1967. In the 1970s, students from various Latinx organizations started meeting in the lobby of FO4, where the ethnic studies department was based.  

In 1996, Asian American, Black and Latino students were granted physical cultural centers in FO4. Students were given basic autonomy over their spaces.  

Inside the Latinx Resource Center

“The LRC serves as a hub to connect, branch out for all (campus) resources,” said Alondra Enriquez, who has served as assistant director of the LRC since fall 2023. (She was appointed interim assistant director in spring 2023.)

“Latinos make up the largest group on this campus,” she said. “I am Latina. I'm a first-generation student before, and now professional. That identity also speaks a lot to my experience. I was raised by immigrant parents. I have other salient identities that align with many students on this campus. That's important, because I then understand where our students are coming from.”  

Like the other cultural and affinity centers on campus, the LRC is a project of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The plan is to eventually move all the cultural centers into the expanded University Student Union, scheduled to be finished by fall 2028.

Hispanic/Latinx students are the largest group to receive loans at CSULB. So there are efforts underway to provide more scholarships and financial aid to this population.

Pete Ortiz ‘66 and his wife Linda have offered a substantial estate gift that will create an endowed scholarship under the LRC for a student who is active in the CSULB Latinx community. It’s the first major philanthropic commitment to the university for the LRC in its 28-year history.

The Ortizes have also covered the registration for 20 students to attend the university’s upcoming Chicano/Latino Graduation Celebration. There are discussions to possibly cover registration costs for more Latinx students next year.  

A dancer at the Chicano/Latino Cultural Graduation Celebration
A dancer performs at the Chicano/Latino Cultural Graduation Celebration in 2023.

Their granddaughter, Emma Ortiz, is scheduled to graduate this month with a degree from the College of Health & Human Services. She also plans to participate in the Cultural Graduation Celebration.

“The motivation comes from Pete and Emma having attended CSULB. I remember how much it meant to Pete regarding getting his degree and Emma really wanted to go where Grandpa had gone,” said Linda Ortiz about the gift. “We have truly been blessed and what better way to share those blessings than to try and educate our ‘gente.’

“I like to tell my girls, Emma and Sara, my favorite quote, which is ‘Si se puede.’” 

The Ortizes’ ongoing support is helping CSULB create a national model for student achievement, empowerment and equity, one of the key priorities of The Beach’s comprehensive No Barriers fundraising campaign.  

Jafet Oidor Ortega, a fourth year who plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, said he was able to get assistance from the LRC to cover the Cultural Graduation Celebration fee.

“Alondra helped me out with the application, and she wanted to chat with me to see how I’m doing,” said Ortega, who lined up a job after Commencement  as a software engineer with Bank of America in North Carolina. “She helped me in other fields. The Latinx Resource Center has helped me with many aspects of my life.”

Inside the Latinx Resource Center
Students have decorated the LRC with their own artworks and photos over the years.

Enriquez said the LRC needs to work on visibility. “From my perspective, and from what I’ve noticed, students don’t know about our center and its existence at all, unless they meet a student who has been to the center or an organization that interacts with us.”

The visibility for “Nuestro Centro,” the LRC’s nickname, will most likely improve after the move into the USU.

“We want to serve our students with more than just the physical space,” Enriquez said. “We need to provide programming and scholarships. We need to be a liaison for our students.”  

Ortega ’24 said fellow Latinx students could help get the word out about the LRC.

“If there was a way to project the statement that they’re looking to help students out, that should be put out there,” he said. “So not just me, but everyone could know how helpful they can be.”  

Latinx students at 2023's Cultural Graduation Celebration
Graduates stand at 2023's Chicano/Latino Cultural Graduation Celebration in Walter Pyramid.