CSC Welcomes Institute for Latino Studies
Center for Social Concerns
In the not-too-distant future, the composition and complexion of the American society will be shaped heavily by demographic changes underway today. By the year 2004, Latinos will be the largest minority group in the United States. Globalization processes will "internationalize" much of domestic life in ways that are really impossible to image even as early as the end of the first decade of the new millennium. Inter-hemispheric affairs will affect the quality of American life on a daily basis.
It is almost certain that a concomitant change will occur within the American Catholic Church. Latinos already constitute some 40 percent of U.S. Catholics and the proportion will be even greater in the future. Notre Dame will draw increasingly from the growing Latino population and undoubtedly will attract more and more students from abroad, particularly students from the Americas.
I welcome the opportunity to follow the footsteps of my mentor, Julian Samora, a sociologist and noted scholar who pioneered efforts to establish a Latino intellectual presence at Notre Dame and throughout our nation. Professor Samora's efforts were monumental in that he was among very few Latino scholars in the academy who worked tirelessly, sometimes in an unsupportive environments to improve social and educational opportunities for women and minorities. I am honored to be named the Julian Samora Chair in Latino Studies and to be appointed as the first Director of the newly created Institute for Latino Studies. We will be busy developing a program in Latino Studies for undergraduate and graduate students. This program will emphasize interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to the study of Latinos in the United States. Recognizing that Notre Dame is both a national university and a Catholic university, we will shape an exciting and innovative area of study for Notre Dame students. The Institute will offer teaching and research activities that advance new knowledge about Latinos in American society, and in the American Catholic Church. We will give attention to the relationship between Latino community life in the United States and the countries of origin of the many Latino immigrant groups who enter our country — who, for the most part, live in areas already populated by Latinos.
I am heartened by the enthusiasm expressed by Notre Dame students, many of whom are of Latino background. I applaud you for your efforts in advancing the idea of Latino Studies at Notre Dame. I applaud Notre Dame alumni, particularly members of the Hispanic Alumni Association and others who have supported the establishment of a campus-wide program. I am truly honored to be in your presence and to receive such a wonderful welcome by the entire Notre Dame community.
I am delighted that the organization which I directed at the University of Texas at Austin, the Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR) a consortium of 15 centers at graduate research institutions in the U.S., has relocated to Notre Dame. Several IUPLR staff moved with me and now provide invaluable leadership and assistance to the Institute. Now headquartered at Notre Dame with a site office in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Latino Initiatives, IUPLR/ND is working closely with Notre Dame's leadership and Latino leaders in developing research and educational opportunities central to our mission.
It is my sincere desire and goal to resist the idea that the Institute exists only for Latino students. I invite you to help us develop a program that is useful and compelling to students and faculty campus wide. I need your help and support to make this goal a reality. I am hopeful that the Institute will gain the support and participation of a broad sector of the Notre Dame community.
Dr. Gilberto Cardenas is Director of the University's new Institute for Latino Studies. The Center for Social Concerns looks forward to collaborations with him and the Institute as together we face the challenges in bringing about "a more just and humane world." This column runs every other Thursday.
All Viewpoint Stories for Thursday, September 30, 1999