Latin Images provides living-learning community for individuals of all majors
Established in 1977, the Latin Images Living-Learning Community, one of many learning communities on campus, provides an opportunity for all students to immerse themselves in Latin American history and culture through academic, social and cultural activities.
“I saw Latin Images as an opportunity to explore more of my family's own history, along with the history, beliefs and traditions of fellow peers, who all had their own unique upbringings,” said Darlene Noristz, a member of the community and a Rutgers School of Nursing sophomore. “All the while, we share a unified Latin identity."
The Latin Images Living-Learning Community began in 1977 as the Latin Images Special Interest Section, according to the Rutgers University Learning Communities website. The program was established by the Latino community at Rutgers College as a way for both Latino and non-Latino students to learn about and celebrate Latino culture and heritage, said Ghada Endick, the director of Residence Education and Staff Development in the Division of Student Affairs.
In Fall 2016, the community evolved into a Living-Learning Community that allows for an intentional and coordinated connection and a seamless learning environment between curricular and co-curricular opportunities, courses and programs, Endick said.
“The community encourages active engagement in all aspects of learning in and outside the classroom,” she said.
Latin Images not only seeks to enhance students’ knowledge of the diverse lived experiences of Latinos and other peoples of Latin American and Caribbean descent in the United States, Endick said, but also to foster a close environment of students, faculty and staff.
It is not necessary that a student be Latino in order to participate in the program. Additionally, members are comprised of students of every discipline, from theater to nursing.
Mumtahana Meah, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said that the Latin Images community taught her how to appreciate her own culture.
“Through loving and engaging the Hispanic culture with my friends, I have also come to appreciate the differences being Bangladeshi," she said.
This residential program is a collaboration between Rutgers Residence Life, the Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies and the Center for Latino Arts and Culture, Endick said.
“The instructor of the Latin Images LLC Seminar, Dr. Carlos Fernandez, is the the director of the Center for Latino Arts and Culture,” she said, which allows for a strong connection between the mission and goals of the center and the LLC.
Loretta Adams-Licklider, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, has been a member of the Latin Images Living-Learning community for the past two years.
“It has been an interesting transition into the LLC, but it actually opened up some cool doors for me,” said Adams-Licklider. “It’s a great opportunity to become more social and connected to the people you live with."
She also noted the interesting academic opportunities open to members of the Latin Images community.
As part of the program, all students enroll in an exclusive seminar called Latinidades: Identities and Images. All new students also take "Introduction to Latino Studies."
“We studied the Latina history of the U.S., allowing this portion of history to come through more clearly than it does in typical U.S. history classes,” she said.
Meah also noted the benefits of the weekly seminar taken by all members.
“We've touched upon a lot of topics such as immigration, U.S. policies past and future in regards to Latinas, race and social issues and the stigmas attached to being Hispanic,” she said. “I love our discussions that we have about race and the ongoing battles we face as colored folk living in the U.S.”
In addition to academic and social opportunities, the Latin Images program provides students with the chance to experience Latino culture through events and activities on campus and beyond.
“Our LLC residential peer mentors create programs that are of interest to the students,” Endick said.
In this past year, they've organized "Bachata, Karaoke and Onesies," "Latin Pelicula Night" and "Latin Game Night," she said.
They've also worked with the director of the Center for Latino Arts and Culture, Dr. Carlos Fernandez, to organize trips to New York City at El Museo del Barrio and Nuyorican Poets Café, Endick said.
“The Center for Latino Arts and Culture always has some kind of music and food,” Adams-Licklider said. “We got to see a traditional Colombian band and learn about the instruments, we’ve learned how to make traditional masks, and the coolest trip was when they took us to NYC to eat Dominican food and go to El Museo del Barrio."
This Friday, members of the community will go to a Spanish cafe in the city to listen to some slam poetry, Meah said.
Latin Images is also active on campus in events involving the other living-learning communities, Noristz said.
“Our RAs and peer mentors from all the LLCs on College Ave. have programs almost twice a month to encourage the sharing and integrating of all our cultures to educating ourselves and connect with one another," she said.
Noristz said that they have programs focusing on the foods, music and beliefs of people of Latin, African-American and different European cultures that everyone can attend and that expose people to similarities we all share that many people often miss.
“This community fosters the preservation of heritage and culture along with promoting a higher sense of family than any regular dorm or apartment,” Adams-Licklider said.
The program is important now more than ever in this political climate, Meah said.
“It makes you feel like you have your people supporting you, among all the hate and racism that is, unfortunately, plaguing the nation," she said.
Christina Gaudino is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in public policy. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.