BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) – Latinx students at Virginia Tech are making their presence known.

On October 25, the university’s first Latinx Symposium will highlight the work of their Latinx population in an effort to increase awareness about the Hispanic academic experience.

Courtesy: Virginia Tech

“The students come here, but in many cases, they don’t know the community. They don’t know that there are other students who identify as Latinx or Hispanic, and more importantly, they don’t know that we have faculty that identify as Hispanic or Latinx that they can use as mentors,” says Carlos Evia, associate professor in the Department of Communication and co-chair of the symposium.

The growth of the Hispanic population in the United States in the past decade has been accompanied by a growth in the Hispanic student population in colleges and universities across the country, and Virginia Tech is no exception.

Courtesy: Dannette Beane (Virginia Tech)

The university has nearly doubled in Hispanic undergraduate enrollment, from 229 students in 2011 to 448 students in 2019.

Courtesy: Dannette Beane (Virginia Tech)

Hispanic graduate enrollment has also seen an increase over the years, from 97 students in the Fall 2010 semester to 175 students at the beginning of the Fall 2019 semester.

The Latinx Symposium will offer students, faculty, and staff lectures, student poster sessions, networking opportunities, and professional development panels. Keynote speakers include Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs, a professor of modern languages and cultures at Seattle University; Jennifer Lozano, an assistant professor of English at the University of North Carolina Wilmington; and Rafael Davalos, the L. Preston Wade Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at Virginia Tech.

“The event came as a response to showcase ‘here we are’ to the students but also showcase ‘here we are’ to the overall community and the university,” says Evia.

The symposium will be hosted by El Centro, Virginia Tech’s Hispanic and Latinx Cultural Center, which is quickly becoming Latinx student’s biggest resource on campus.

Jose Santiago-Rivera, a doctoral student in chemistry, experienced culture shock when he moved to Blacksburg from Puerto Rico several years ago. With the help of El Centro, he was able to cope with the sudden change in environment and culture.

“You actually get the sense that there is a community out there and you make new friends. In my case, I’m here alone without my family. So these people that I have met here, they are my family now,” says Santiago-Rivera.

The 2019 Virginia Tech Latinx Symposium is partially sponsored by 38 donors who participated in a campaign through JUMP, Virginia Tech’s crowdfunding platform. The event’s organizers include co-chair Carmen Giménez Smith, a professor in the Department of English, and coordinator Veronica Montes, director of El Centro.

The principal goal of the symposium is to showcase the contributions the Latinx population has made at the university.

Evia hopes that attendees take away something special from the event.

“If they are Latinx or Hispanic, they’re not alone. We have a community and they can come talk to us. We can get together, we can have events, we can support, and we can mentor them. If you’re not Latinx or Hispanic, be aware that we’re here and we want to work with you. We are growing in numbers and we represent many different interests,” says Evia.

The symposium will take place on October 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Old Dominion Ballroom in Squires Student Center. Registration is open to all Virginia Tech undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty.