Roberto Olivares III ’88 has a longrange perspective on the experiences of Hispanic/Latino students at Duke. While he enjoyed his undergraduate experiences, there weren’t many other Hispanic/Latino students that he could identify with.
His son, Roberto Olivares IV ’12, belongs to the 7 percent of Hispanic/Latino students that comprise the undergraduate student body. The younger Olivares and his peers have an array of organizations geared specifically to them, including Sabrosura, a Latin dance group; Mi Gente, Duke’s Latino student association; and La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda, Duke’s first Hispanic/Latino fraternity. The Latino/a Studies program, established in 1997, began offering undergraduate courses toward a certificate in the spring of 2009.
“Things are getting better, but Duke still has a ways to go to be competitive when it comes to recruiting and supporting the interests of Hispanic/Latino students and faculty,” says the older Olivares.
For example, at MIT, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania, Hispanic/Latino students make up between 11 and 12 percent of the Class of 2015. Through the Duke Alumni Association (DAA), Olivares and other Hispanic/Latino alumni are working through DUHLAA, the Duke University Hispanic/Latino Alumni Association, to foster greater support for and expand Duke’s Hispanic/ Latino community. “We hope that DUHLAA will serve as a central hub for graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and alumni to gain visibility and have a voice,” he says. More than 3,000 alumni identify as Hispanic/Latino.
DUHLAA evolved from efforts begun in 2004 to create an affinity group for Hispanic/Latino alumni. That year, a $100,000 scholarship endowment was created for undergraduate students of Latino/a heritage, and part of DUHLAA’s emphasis in the coming years is to continue adding to the endowment. (The fund currently has a market value of $350,000.) DUHLAA members also come to campus during Latino Student Recruitment Weekend to encourage accepted students to matriculate.
Last summer DUHLAA crafted and approved a constitution and elected a board of officers. In March this year, DUHLAA held its inaugural national conference in Miami. Vice provost for undergraduate education Steve Nowicki shared perspectives on how Duke’s efforts to serve its Hispanic/Latino community compare to that of peer institutions. And associate professor of literature Antonio Viego discussed the Latino/a Studies program and ideas for broadening the curriculum. Michael Bennett ’77 and Reggie Lyon ’84, members of DUBAC (Duke University Black Alumni Council), shared their experiences building and expanding that affinity group.
DUHLAA communications chair Roberta Oyakawa B.S.E. ’86 says the group’s efforts dovetail with the larger missions of the university and the DAA. “We want to engage with alumni in an effort to promote the best interests of the university, while attending to the specific needs of the Hispanic and Latino community. Our goals are to track statistics and metrics about the Hispanic/Latino community, support and expand that community, and sponsor outreach events such as our national conference.”
Interested in joining or learning more? DUHLAA has its own affinity page on the Alumni Communities section of the DAA website—duhlaa.org—and has a Facebook group page.