This year, Western Colorado University’s Spanish Program hosted the 5th annual Conference of Latin-American and Hispanic Topics. The conference included presentations given by students in the Spanish department as well as a keynote speaker with expertise on topics affecting the Hispanic-Latino communities.
“The Conference on Latin-American and Hispanic Topics was created with many goals in mind,” said Lorena Gómez, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Spanish. “First, I wanted to offer a venue where not only the students in the Spanish program could deliver their papers written in their Spanish classes, but for all of them to recognize each other and to listen to each other. I wanted to offer a space for the students to experience camaraderie.”
Starting Relevant Discussions
Along with the opportunity for students to share their work, Gómez wanted to extend the conference to those who are interested in discussing topics relating to issues that affect the Hispanic-Latino community.
For this year’s conference, Gustau Alegret, a journalist for the Spanish broadcasting network NTN24, was invited to speak on the issues that most affect the Hispanic-Latino communities in the United States today. Alegret gave a speech on how Spanish-speaking communities in the U.S. are often grouped together invalidly and labeled “Hispanic” or “Latino” involuntarily.
Overcoming Language Barriers
While she agrees with Alegret’s speech on the communities’ struggles with labels, Gómez said that she believes the language barrier is one of the most pressing issues the community faces. However, she’s hopeful that the growing interest in learning Spanish is a good sign.
“When people learn someone else’s language that is, in my opinion, the best way to reach the diversity, inclusion, equity goals that we all want to achieve,” Gómez said.
How All Western Students Can Help
Luckily for Western students, the opportunity to learn a different language is as easy as joining a Spanish language course. Learning a second language not only expands the ability to communicate with others, but Gómez states that being bilingual opens students up to job opportunities, higher salaries and even opportunities to travel abroad.
“My experience has shown me that bilingual students can interact with a more diverse population, can enjoy traveling without depending on others for translations, and in the long run, when you learn another language you are on the right track,” said Gómez. “Please, consider learning another language.”
Western Colorado University is proud to give students the opportunity to expand their education and culture through the Spanish program’s courses and conferences as well as other diverse communities on campus. If a student cannot take on a foreign language course, the Multicultural Center gives students the opportunity to learn about various cultures through their multiple clubs. Though there’s always more work to do, the university is determined to the push toward diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“Western is one of those educational institutions where there is respect and support for all kinds of ideas. Among everything we are seeing that is happening worldwide, it is good to know that our students at Western have a space where they can be listened to and where their different, colorful and diverse ideas have and will always be welcomed,” said Gómez.
Author Credit: Kinlee Whitney
Photo Credit: Olivia Reinhardt