CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University has established a new Center for Latino/Latina Studies and Engagement, and named a prominent faculty member as interim director.

Susana Rivera-Mills, a professor of Spanish and diversity advancement, will direct the new center, known as CL@SE (pronounced claw-SAY), which is designed to meet the research and outreach needs relating to Oregon's growing Latino population. Rivera-Mills also is the associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and has been an active leader on the OSU campus in advancing diversity.

The new center emerged from discussions by leadership from OSU, the Oregon University System, and the State Board of Higher Education, according to Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president.

"Research and outreach on issues surrounding the Latino population are critical to enable success of this growing population segment in Oregon," Randhawa said. "For OSU, the work will directly contribute to enhancing student retention and success of Latino students, and of all under-represented minorities."

The new center will integrate studies of Latino communities in the United States with analyses of their histories, politics, cultures and societies, officials say. Among the research themes that will be explored are colonialism, race, gender, nationalism, globalism, immigration, economic development, language and identity.

"The center will promote engaged research and outreach devoted to advancing knowledge and understanding of Latino contributions and the issues surrounding this population in our state, region and beyond," Rivera-Mills said. "I am enthusiastic about the opportunities. Our action-based agenda will promote economic, political, physical and educational well-being and development."

Rivera-Mills has been on the OSU faculty since 2007, and has mentored Latino students and been involved with the university's internationalization and transnational efforts, as well as been a leader in student engagement and global learning initiatives. She specializes in Spanish language maintenance and loss, sociolinguistics, and Spanish as a first and second language.

CL@SE will be affiliated with both the OSU Provost's Office and the Research Office, officials say.

"Our recently developed research agenda emphasizes relevance, integration, collaboration and leadership," said Richard Spinrad, OSU's vice president for research. "Its principles support team-based research, student involvement, partnership with communities, and transdisciplinary research. CL@SE has at its core all of these principles and reflects the values of the OSU research community."

Scott Reed, OSU's vice provost for University Outreach and Engagement, said Rivera-Mills is ideally suited to direct the launch of the new center. "The advancement of social justice is among the important things that will be fostered with Susana's able leadership," Reed said.

CL@SE will collaborate with several units on campus, especially the colleges of liberal arts, science and education, and Outreach and Engagement.

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Rick Spinrad, 541-737-0662