Aracely Munoz Petrich
UCLAN is proud to have committed volunteers working hard to make the group a success. Here we profile some of our most active members.
Aracely Munoz Petrich serves as Chair of the UChicago Latino Alumni Network. She has been instrumental in developing outreach tools for Chicago Latino alums, as well as key in providing in a vision for the group as it continues with recruitment efforts and event planning.
Gabriel: You are the club chair as well as the founding member of UCLAN. What made you want to start and lead the Latino Alumni club for the University of Chicago?
Aracely: First and foremost, I love my alma mater. I love the U of C and my time there. It was such an amazing experience and I think many Latino alums had a similar experience. I think there is this perception that the university isn't always a welcoming place or a great fit for diverse students. Although the university admittedly has its challenges I think it can be a great fit for diverse students. Therefore, one of my motivations was my fondness for my experience at the University of Chicago and wanting to make a contribution for future Latino students and alumni.
My second motivation was that U of C is an amazing institution that attracts and produces amazing alumni. Within our own Latino alumni ranks, there are a number of remarkable alumni, published writers, film producers, entrepreneurs and so forth. Prior to the creation of our alumni group there was not a defined entity through which we could connect and support each other, or continue to support and promote the university among students or the broader university community.
Finally, in addition to being an alumni I also had the opportunity to work at the university and know first-hand what some of the University’s administrative and structural challenges have been. Therefore, I was happy to see that the university was finally open to establishing affinity groups and creating an opportunity for a Latino alumni group.
Gabriel: Where do you see the group headed in the next few years?
Aracely: There are a couple of goals. We want to encourage Latino alums around the country to create local groups where they can connect with each other. For example, we have a group in New York that is starting to coalesce and I hope that becomes the case in other parts of the country such as California, Texas, Florida, or wherever U of C Latino alums may be. We also hope to see the same type of engagement from our Latin American alums that often get left out. I hope the establishment of this affinity group will create regional groups that can come together and support each other and the efforts of the university in their area. We also hope that by creating a Latino Alumni Network we will be able to showcase who we are and how our university experience has been a stepping-stone to accomplishing our professional goals. We also hope it will provide an opportunity to contribute to the university’s effort to support and increase diverse students on campus.
Gabriel: Were you active in Latino cultural groups on campus?
Aracely: I was active in HACER, which was a predecessor organization to MECHA and OLAS. HACER did many of the same things that OLAS and MECHA do, community service, social events, and so forth. I also helped charter the first Latina sorority at the University of Chicago, Sigma Lambda Gamma. I was really happy to hear that there are other Latina/o sororities/fraternities that have sprung up on campus since then. I was also very involved with the predecessor to OMSA. Finally, when I worked at Chicago, I worked at the University Community Service Center. I was UCSC’s first coordinator under First Lady Michelle Obama. I have a long history with the university.
Gabriel: How does you Latina identity inform your life today?
Aracely: My Latina identity informs nearly everything in my life. I am always cognizant of my gender and ethnicity. Beyond my work on campus, I am involved with other organizations that focus on Latino issues. I am a commissioner for the American Bar Association’s Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities. I also serve on the host committee for the Washington D.C. Gala of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). I personally feel an obligation to give back to my own community, whether it is through the university of other groups. I feel very fortunate for what I've been able to accomplish and what I've had access to, so I want to ensure that for the next generation.
I also feel an obligation because Latinos are 16% of the US population. One in four children in the United States are Latino and making up 23 percent of the public school population. In my own profession, Latino lawyers are less than 3% of the attorney population in this country. One of the markers of true integration in a society is a group’s access the justice system. Although we have grown in population, we have not really been able to access mechanisms related to the rule of law, such as the courts, government, and civic society.
Gabriel: Are you involved with any other Chicago affinity groups?
Aracely: I'm currently not involved with other affinity groups. Before my tenure with the Latino Alumni Network, I served on the board of the local UChicago Chicago Alumni Club. I have always involved in some way with alumni efforts.
Gabriel: How else do you keep in contact with the Chicago community? You live in DC correct?
Aracely: Yes, I live in DC. I have a great team I work with on UCLAN here. Sara Toussaint and Alicia Bassuk serve on our group’s executive committee. We also have a corps of board members that are working to develop a web presence and programs. They have all been great and I am fortunate to have fellow alums that are just as committed and passionate. We have a lot of great alums that will help us grow as well a great staff person, Lucie Sandel.
Gabriel: Are there any upcoming events in your area?
Aracely: There is nothing planned in Washington DC. For the alumni reunion weekend, we are hoping to have an informal gathering at the beer garden on Saturday, during alumni weekend. We are also working to develop a listing of reunion events that may interest our Latino alums. In the coming months, Finally, we have some exciting events in the pipeline that we are hoping to roll out in the coming months. These events will feature some of our prominent Latino alums.
Gabriel: Great. Anything else you would like to add?
Aracely: If there are any Latino alums that haven't connected with our entity, we hope they will connect with us soon. We have a presence on social media, we are developing a webpage, and we'll have a series of events throughout the country. We look forward to serving the Latino alumni community and hope they come out to our events.