Jan. 17, 2019

Welcome Batten Latinx Network

For Batten student Brian Zuluaga, community is everything. But if you can’t find it—then you must build it. And that’s exactly what Zuluaga, a Batten third-year who hails from outside of Philadelphia, is doing with Batten Latinx Network (BLN).

For native Virginians, UVA is somewhat of an institution—a mythic mecca steeped in history and tradition. But for outsiders, it can be a tricky milieu to navigate. This is how Zuluaga felt when he first arrived as an out-of-state first-year in 2016.

“When I arrived, I knew no one. So, I reached out to multi-cultural student services where I learned about Latinx Student Alliance (LSA), which I eventually joined,” said Zuluaga. “I also joined the Peer Mentoring Program (PMP), where I was introduced to a lot of people.”

PMP served as a great way for Zuluaga to not only meet people but to give back, instilling a desire to take on leadership roles and become more involved in current affairs.

During his second-year, he heard about NCORE, an annual conference that addresses issues of race and ethnicity in higher education. It was here that he met other students from competing universities dealing with the same issues.

“A lot of people of color feel marginalized—and during the conference, there was a lot of emotion amongst participants when they shared their stories. It was inspiring and empowering. And made me think, what can I do to help out the Latinx community?”

At the same time, Zuluaga was waiting to hear about his application to Batten.

“Patti Edson really helped me with my application. During that process, we both realized there was no Latinx organization at Batten.”

Without a Latinx network or presence at Batten, Zuluaga felt it was harder for prospective Latinx students to approach admissions and apply.

“Garrett Hall can be an intimidating space,” said Zuluaga. “But it does not have to be for students from different backgrounds.”

For a school dedicated to becoming a conversation changer, Zuluaga feels compelled to make BLN a success. While he admits the group’s mission statement is highly ambitious, he remains optimistic and believes it’s important to aim high—especially in the beginning phases.

The first BLN event will take place on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 6:00 pm in the Great Hall. Zuluaga and his fellow group members will discuss the Batten admissions process and will be available to assist Latinx students interested in Batten with their applications. Through BLN, Zuluaga hopes to reinforce the notion that a community exists for Latinx students at Batten, and that a diverse network of Batten students and alumni are available.

Joining the Batten Latinx ranks are Asha Chadha (BA ’20) and Lauren Faloni (BA ’20), who like Zuluaga are Batten Admissions Ambassadors; and Magdalena Feran (BA ’20), a member of the Batten Undergraduate Council. Students interested in joining Batten Latinx or learning more about the organization should attend Thursday’s event, or contact Brian Zuluaga and the other members.

UVA’s Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Multicultural Student Services Vicki Gist has played a pivotal role in the creation of the organization. Zuluaga also extends his gratitude to Patti Edson, Jeff Chidester, and Professor Paul Martin, who have been positive influences and offered advice and support.

Batten Latinx Network Mission Statement:

The mission of the Batten Latinx Network (BLN) is to form a community of Latinx students at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Through this organization, we hope to welcome/recruit prospective undergraduate and graduate Latinx students, to host professional development events for prospective and current students, and to maintain relationships with our Latinx alumni. This network will also function to share resources to current and prospective Latinx students, such as internship information and potential job opportunities. We hope to create a community-based space of Latinx students that will support one another in their academic, social, and professional pursuits. Furthermore, we aim to facilitate the discussion of policy issues relating to the Latinx community both in America and abroad.