Hispanic Heritage Month lecture to highlight cultural awareness

By Teagan Wilkinson | 10/1/15 8:59am

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GVL / Archive Hispanic Heritage Month


Hispanic Heritage Month is a month-long celebration of Hispanic culture, history and tradition taking place from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Dr. Marylou Olivarez Mason will finish out the 2015 celebration at Grand Valley State University with a lecture on Oct. 8.

Mason struggled through poverty as a child migrant worker, but she has since founded Michigan Hispanic Heritage Month and has become the executive director of the Michigan Commission on Spanish-Speaking Affairs.

The lecture, titled "A Story of Latina Excellence," will cover Mason’s ‘rags-to-riches’ story and shine the light on the difficulties of rising above oppression.

“It is important for GVSU to bring in front of students stories of successful role models, particularly people who came from humble beginnings and have persevered against hardships and barriers and finally give back to their own community,” said Connie Dang, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Mason’s lecture will also talk about her progress through life, eventually finding herself as a defender of Latin American rights.

Her transition from migrant worker to nursing profession to civil rights advocate, while significant, is just one part of her life.

Mason has received various awards and recognitions, such as the Diana L. Gorham Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greater Lansing YWCA for her extensive work in government. She also received an honorary doctorate degree from Great Lakes Bay Early College for her community work throughout the state of Michigan and on both the national and international level.

Some of the other awards and honors presented to Mason include being Hispanic Woman of the Year, inducted into the Hispanic Business Alliance Hall of Fame and the Cesar Chavez Community Service Award.

“Hispanics have a rich cultural heritage and have made many contributions that will impact our lives for centuries to come,” Dang said.

As of now, Hispanics make up 15 percent of the U.S. population. They remain the largest minority group, so their culture bleeds into that of the U.S. Hispanic Heritage Month, which is a chance for GVSU students to learn about the culture. The Office of Multicultural Affairs offers these celebrations to highlight the importance of diversity in education. With GVSU being a predominately white campus, having awareness about diversity makes for a more well-rounded student body.

Mason’s lecture is the last of several events to take place at GVSU to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. The lecture will take place in the Cook-DeWitt Center at noon on Oct. 8. The event is open to the public and will be followed by a short reception.

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