CORVALLIS, Ore. - As Oregon's Latino population continues to rise, a new center at Oregon State University is working to address issues crucial to the history, politics, and culture of this diverse group of people.

OSU's new Center for Latin@ Studies and Engagement, or CL@SE, will celebrate its arrival with a week of events Oct. 8-11. CL@SE is designed to meet the research and outreach needs relating to Oregon's Latino population, which accounted for nearly half of the state's growth over the last decade.

A keynote address by Juan Andrade Jr., president of the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute and one of few Latinos in history to receive a Presidential Medal, will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the CH2M Hill Alumni Center Ballroom on campus. Andrade will speak on "The Global Implications of Latino Population Growth and the Search for Common Ground." He has been recognized four times as one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in America.

Other events during the week include a panel discussion on the history of Latinos in Oregon on Oct. 8, and an art exhibit and reception for Corvallis resident and third-generation Chicana painter Analee Fuentes on Oct. 10. A full schedule of CL@SE inaugural week events can be found at:

Susana Rivera-Mills, interim director of CL@SE, is also a professor of Spanish and diversity advancement at OSU. Rivera-Mills is an expert on the way language is used, and the effects of language use on society, particularly that of the Spanish language.

"There are many challenges facing our Latino communities, and these are challenges that affect us all directly or indirectly, such as issues surrounding education, access to health care, immigration reform, and economic development," said Rivera-Mills. "CL@SE will help connect various groups, both academic and non-academic, with different perspectives, who can work together to develop solutions and move our communities forward."

Joining Rivera-Mills as part of the new CL@SE team are Maria Chavez-Haroldson, associate director for outreach and engagement, and Daniel López-Cevallos, associate director of research. Chavez-Haroldson is new to academia and previously worked for the nonprofit CASA-Court Appointed Special Advocates, an organization that advocates for abused and neglected children in the judicial system. López-Cevallos earned his Ph.D. in public health at OSU and has worked in various public health projects in Ecuador and Oregon (primarily with Latino communities).

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Susana Rivera-Mills, 541-737-4586