In 1990, the Hispanic/Latinx population in Charlotte made up 1 percent of total demographics. Now, Charlotte has experienced a 300 percent growth in the Latinx population. UNC Charlotte has also experienced a large increase in Latinx students, specifically within the past five years, with a 49 percent increase. As the Latinx population increases throughout Charlotte, the city and the University have demonstrated various efforts to provide services, celebrate and engage with this community.
Chancellor Dubois spoke on these efforts at the Latin American Chamber of Commerce luncheon where he exhibited the many ways the UNC Charlotte campus itself is celebrating the Latinx culture, specifically through multicultural organizations, and the way students, staff and faculty have created partnerships with organizations serving the Latinx population to provide resources and services. Through the Civic Action Plan laid about by the University, they are attempting to engage with various communities and ensure that the University is aiding in their development.
Dubois also spoke specifically about the various partnerships that have been created, such as the Latino Pipeline Initiative, Communiversity, Belk College and the EGADE Business School.
Currently, the College of Education is partnering with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) to recruit Latinx teachers interested in becoming CMS principals. Through this initiative, those interested in the positions can take classes at UNCC, Queens or Wingate.
As the Latinx population increases throughout Charlotte, more students that are entering schools may only know Spanish or have limited knowledge of English, which can also be said for their family members. Students and their family members can gain a sense of trust with their teachers and principals if the principals and teachers speak Spanish and are able to relate to them. Jim Watson, a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, was one of the people that spearheaded this initiative, noting the lack of Latino principals in CMS Schools.
The UNC Charlotte community has made great strides to also incorporate health and wellness into their mission of serving the Latinx community. The College of Health and Human Services has created a partnership with Camino Community Charlotte, a non-profit organization that aims to serve low-income families and individuals by providing them with health care services, economic mobility services and other resources. The partnership is called Communiversity. Through this connection, UNC Charlotte students and staff have been able to serve the Latinx community at Camino and contextualize the lived experiences of this community. The overall mission of this partnership is to “Equip People to Live Healthy, Hopeful, and Productive Lives.” When Dr. Mark DeHaven saw the need within the Latinx community for health services, specifically addressing the disparities that exist within the Latinx population in Charlotte and the lack of health resources available to them, he sought to create this partnership to ensure that students, such as nurses and psychology students, are able to learn about the experiences of Latinos in Charlotte and use their expertise to provide services.
Roger Suclupe and Dr. Chris Mellinger are both professors at UNC Charlotte and the co-directors for this initiative. One of the main reasons they identified that makes this partnership so impactful is, “Communiversity is bidirectional, meaning that students are able to learn about the Latinx community via experiential learning and are able to become more culturally aware, while the Latinx population is also able to access services from students and staff that want to help. It is a symbiotic relationship.”
They also cited misinformation as an obstacle for Latinos attempting to receive care and stated that mental health and well-being are some of the most stigmatized subjects within Latinx culture. Suclupe said that this partnership is attempting to dismantle the stigma and also “help the community realize that they are the experts of their own lived experiences.”
One of the other longstanding impacts made by this partnership is the Latinx Mental Health Summit. Inaugurated in 2017, this day-long event aims to bring in clinical professionals, students and other community members to discuss how to equip themselves to serve the mental health and well-being needs of the Latinx population. The next summit will occur on March 15, 2019.
The Communiversity partnership has also expanded to include 10 other departments, such as the business and dance department at UNC Charlotte. Maria Diaz, the program manager for the Academy for Research on Community Health, Engagement and Services (ARCHES) stated that the Dance Department has been able to develop a course centered on Afro-Latin dance, which gets students and Camino population involved together.
Currently, Camino is serving about 20,000 latinos a year.
UNC Charlotte has also transcended borders to create partnerships with Latin American countries. A prime example is the Belk College of Business’ partnership has EDAGE Business School in Monterrey, Mexico. At the luncheon, Chancellor Dubois met some of the students at this school and spoke on the importance of expanding our development of these partnerships internationally.
Two faculty members from each respective school, Rick Conboy and Gabriel Barraza, designed “initially a full-time dual degree program and followed it through the governance system. As more demand emerged, a part-time dual MBA program with an emphasis on Global Business Strategy evolved with inaugural class Fall 2005.”
The Belk College of Business has also been able to partner with the Latin American Chamber of Commerce by creating networking events “specifically for the Global Competitiveness in Latin American Market course offered during Summer II session taught jointly by BCOB and EGADE, and comprised of EGADE and domestic MBA students.”
The Latinx population within UNC Charlotte has expanded greatly and has allowed for the development of various organizations aiming to promote the Latinx culture on UNC Charlotte’s campus.
Student organizations such as the Hispanic College Awareness Program, Latin American Student Organization, Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity, La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity Incorporated, Omega Phi Beta Sorority and others have been able to cultivate and develop the Latinx culture on campus. With the creation of new organizations, such as the Latinx Honor Society, the representation of the Latinx community at UNCC is ever growing.
As Suclupe stated, “UNC Charlotte has taken the definition of an urban institute and made strides to engage with the community,” and this has manifested through the various partnerships with the Latinx community.