UI creates Latinx Living Learning Community to unite students

A new Living Learning Community, called “Unidos,” will be offered to University of Iowa students with Latinx identity or those who wish to gain a better understanding of Latinx culture.


Tate Hildyard

The Latino Native American Cultural Center is seen on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2019.

Lauren White, News Reporter

In an effort to provide a healthy transition into college life and offer a platform for students who identify as Latinx, the University of Iowa created a new Living Learning Community — called “Unidos,” or unity — to emphasize uniting students of a similar background.

The UI announced Oct. 11 that it will begin development of a new Living Learning Community that will be implemented and ready for residents by fall 2020. Applications for the housing space are open now.

Residence halls across campus currently house 15 various Living Learning Communities, not including the incoming “Unidos” community.

Thomas Arce, the UI Latino Native American Cultural Center coordinator, said the Unidos Living Learning Community was created for students of similar identity and background, or those with an interest in gaining a greater understanding of Latinx culture, to gather and be energized by the excitement of attending the UI.

UI senior Alexia Sánchez was part of the original group of students involved in writing the proposal for the community. She said there has been conversation on campus about the need for a community such as “Unidos” for the last few years.

The proposal was written by students and created because of student advocacy, Sánchez said. The team came up with a solid idea about a year ago and began concrete planning then, she added.

“Right now, the Latinx community is the majority minority group at 8 percent of the student body, and it is only growing, but it is in need of more resources,” Sánchez said. “We hope to echo the efforts that the Young, Black, and Gifted community has made for its African American students.”

RELATED: UI Latinx/a/o Heritage Month celebrates identity

Amy Baumgartner, associate director for Residence Education Academic Initiatives at the UI, said she learned from the passion and perseverance the students who fought for the community demonstrated.

Students who live in the community will gain leadership and professional skills to go toward their lives after college, Baumgartner said, and strong academic ties to the program will provide students with direct connections to faculty and staff.

“Students in the community will be required to take a specially designed first-year seminar in the Latina/o Studies department,” Baumgartner said. “Through this course, as well as others that the students may take, they will have the opportunity to learn about their identities’ history and roots, all of which are marginalized topics in common history and humanity courses.”

This Unidos Living Learning Community will be implemented in a residence hall to be determined on the west side of campus. Baumgartner said this location is ideal in order to allow for a strong relationship between the living space and the Latino Native American Cultural Center.

RELATED: The Latinx community gathers to celebrate activism

The community will broadcast and educate students on various events occurring on campus to promote engagement throughout the UI, Baumgartner said. It also aims to connect students with others who have similar backgrounds through events such as Latinx Heritage Month, Latinx Education Excellence in the Midwest Conference, and Latinx in Action Week, she added.

“It’s important for our students to have self-preservation moments like these in a university setting, because it leads them to thrive and succeed inside and outside the classroom,” Arce said.