Diversity ‘a given’ for new La Casa Cultural Latina director

By Katina Bolos

La Casa Cultural Latina welcomed Lizette Rivera as its new director in July. In the two months since taking the position, Rivera has already become an established staff team member who makes herself known to the students who come to La Casa.

Rivera graduated from the University in 1998, having been involved with La Casa through her undergraduate career.

“For me, (La Casa) was a home away from home,” Rivera said. “I wanted to come back and be director (of La Casa), so when the position opened up I came here.”

Prior to taking this position, Rivera said she worked in higher education from 2005 onward at Richard J. Daley College in Chicago. There she served as the director of TRIO—Upward Bound. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the Upward Bound program provides academic opportunities, especially catered towards high school students from low-income families and families in which neither parent earned a bachelor’s degree.

Rivera said she thinks diversity is an absolutely crucial aspect of life. She said she wants La Casa to represent as many Latino/Latina cultures as possible and to create an environment where diversity is embraced.

“We are in a global world. The real world is diverse,” she said. “The average employer today is not looking for someone with tunnel vision, they’re looking for someone who can talk to someone in another country and not offend them. Diversity is not a waste of time. Diversity is just a given to me.”

Rivera said she is 100 percent Puerto Rican but was born and raised in Chicago by her Puerto Rican-born parents. As a first generation college graduate, Rivera said she feels a connection with the Latino/Latina students, particularly those from the Chicago area.

“I feel an instant bond with them because I know what these kids go through. I wanted to be in student affairs so I could continue that mentorship,” she said.

Salvador Ledesma, sophomore in DGS, said he comes to La Casa frequently.

“It’s quiet when you need it to be, and you can have people you feel comfortable with,” Ledesma said.

The previous director, Adele Lozano, had held the position since 2006. She left to move to Iowa, where she is from originally.

“I met (Rivera) at a workshop Monday which helped students organize classes. She obviously had it all together and definitely related well to students. She wasn’t uptight at all,” Ledesma said.

As a new director, Rivera has several topics she’d like to focus on, but she said she’s not looking to make big changes right away.

“I really would like to hear more from Latino and Latina students, and anybody, about what La Casa can do for students and what improvements can be done,” Rivera said.

She added that she would like to do more for graduate students and undocumented students as well.