Cultural living communities foster connection

Taylor Fukunaga
Staff Writer

A relatively new housing initiative, the Black and Latinx Living and Learning Communities, has launched at the University of La Verne. A living and learning community, or LLC, allows students of identified communities to live together and take classes together in an environment aimed at making them feel more connected.

In spring, the University started the Latinx Living and Learning Community in addition to its existing Black Living and Learning Community which was started in fall 2022. Roughly 120 Black and Latinx students are a part of these Living and Learning Communities currently. Most of the freshmen in these communities are housed in the Citrus Residence Hall and most of the returning students are housed in Vista.

“An assessment was done prior to the COVID pandemic, and it was determined that there was a need for something to be created that addressed the sense of belonging amongst our students,” Eugene Shang, director of residence life and student conduct, said.

According to Tableau Public’s most recent Student Headcount by Race and Gender, 66.7% of students at the University of La Verne identified as Black or Latinx.

The Black and Latinx LLCs are operated similarly to the other such programs on campus, such as the Honors LLC.

“It was the interest of the students and the will to do it, then we used the money from our office,” Alesha Knox, associate director of multicultural affairs and Black student services, said.

The new housing feature is a collaboration of the University’s Center for Multicultural Services, Housing and Residential Life and Academic Success Center.

Knox is also adviser for the University’s Black Student Union and co-adviser for the Sanctioned Step Team. She said that connecting student life with cultural engagement is important for true diversity, equity and inclusion.

“I love being in this space that allows students to get to know their identities and those of other people,” Knox said. “As much as possible, we want to (provide) community and space for people who are Black, Latinx, or those who feel comfortable around that space.”

To support the students of these LLCs, the Center for Multicultural Services started off the school year with welcome baskets full of school supplies, a first-aid kit, and other hygiene items.

Daniel Loera, director of multicultural affairs, said he wants students to understand that they can grow from understanding and embracing their cultural identities.

Loera added that cultural programming, such as cultural celebrations and diversity retreats will support students developing a sense of self, their differences, and what this means for them.

Resident assistants in the LLC are focused on building community and knowledge through events and programming.

“We recently had the welcome party for the Black and Latinx scholars,” Andrea Essley, senior kinesiology major and RA for the Black students’ LLC, said.

“I always felt like there was something missing from my experience here at the University, but this community was that missing piece,” Essley added.

“I’m kind of the mom on their floor,” she said. “We’re all just so close, and I’m really happy about that.”

“If you look at the demographics, our University is a major Hispanic-serving institution,”  Juan Regalado, chief student affairs officer, said. “This feature allows us to live out our diversity, equity, and inclusion mission.”

Regalado said he hopes the LLCs will provide a space for members, where they are not afraid to be themselves and can foster meaningful friendships.

Taylor Fukunaga can be reached at taylor.fukunaga@laverne.edu.

Taylor Fukunaga is a staff writer for the Campus Times. She is a sophomore communications major with a concentration in public relations.

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