ANN ARBOR—When Lorraine Gutierrez first attended the University of Michigan 30 years ago as a doctoral student, she faced questions she’d never been asked before.

“What is a Latino? What’s a Hispanic? And the question many of us have been asked: ‘Where are you from? Where are you really from?'” recalled Gutierrez, now the Arthur F. Thurnau professor of psychology at U-M. “At the time, our community was very, very small.

“Our community here has had many ups and downs but overall we have moved toward larger enrollments, larger numbers of Latinx faculty and staff, and had a much stronger voice and stronger presence at our university,” said Gutierrez, the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony for the 2018 Latinx Heritage Month.

“We are still a very small fraction of our student body of the faculty and our staff but our voice has continued to grow.”

More than 350 students, faculty and staff attended the event held at the Michigan League Ballroom Sept. 11.

U-M president Mark Schlissel, who was among those who welcomed students to campus, regretted not being able to eat the meal cooked and presented by Latino chefs at the event. It included coconut fish, fried plantains, rice and beans, onion and tomato salad, and tres leches cake.

“I promised my wife I would have dinner with her,” he said, adding he would make sure to bring her along for next year.

“On behalf of the leadership of the university, we’re absolutely thrilled that you’re here,” he told students. “We know you’re talented, you work hard, you’ve got passion and you’re going to be successful in life. And we’re really, really happy that you came to our community to help continue the process of raising us up and being a community as good and strong as a community as we can possibly be.”

Javier Solorzano, program manager at Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, and Lesley Rivas, lead director of La Casa, presented this year’s events from a variety of offices, schools, student organizations, and Latinx sororities. The event included a presentation of traditional dances from Latin America, “Cueca y Marinera,” performed by U-M students Cristina Castillo and Bryan Terrazas.

Catalina Ormsby, director of U-M’s National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good, called on students to continue working to creating a welcoming atmosphere for all students.

“You have been serving as models for our campus. It is because of you and your efforts that also faculty and staff are coming together,” said Ormsby, a board member with the Professional Latino at U-M Alliance. “I hope that today replicates, and the enthusiasm that I see around the room doesn’t go away when it gets a little bit colder and you see the snow. Let’s keep coming together.”

To find the Latinx Heritage Month Calendar 2018, visit: