Hispanic students are an important part of campus life, but were not visible as a distinctive group until April of 1970 when they formed the first Hispanic group on the North Texas State University campus. “Los Chicanos,” was formed to “meet the social, cultural, and educational needs of Mexican-American students.” (1970 Yucca) In 1974 NTSU worked to develop new means to solve the problems of minorities on campus and understand differences among groups through the new Center for Ethnic Affairs. That year 300 of NTSU’s students were Hispanic, and they were referred to as the “forgotten minority” on campus in that year’s Yucca. Los Chicanos, then known as MASA, made it a priority to “return yearly to many poor Texas Mexican American neighborhoods, or barrios…to provide and establish with younger students a positive identification factor with life in a white university.” (1974 Yucca) This remained the only Hispanic group on campus for close to 20 years going through many name changes, including La Causa, the Mexican American Student Association (MASA), the Mexican American Student Organization (MASO), Hispanic Students for Higher Education (HSHE), and the Association of Latino American Students (ALAS).
Throughout the years, Hispanic students made regular appearances in the Yucca, the North Texas yearbook. One of the earliest students known to be Hispanic, hailing from Puerto Rico, was Maria Isabel Rodriguez Quetglas. She was popularly known as Betty Rodriguez while at North Texas State Teacher’s College, and graduated with a BA in Spanish in 1943. She was a member of the Gammadions, and was the Junior and Senior Miss Ardens. As president of the Pan-American forum she worked to promote education about Latin America and the Spanish language and served as hostess at the Spanish table in Marquis Hall Dining Room to help fellow students practice their Spanish. In 1942 she was appointed second lieutenant of Company B in the newly formed North Texas State Defense Training Battalion of the Women’s Defense Corps. This defense corps was the only known girls’ training unit in the country and made up entirely of students with the goal of training girls to be leaders in defense organizations around the state.
In 1987, Dr. Gloria Contreras was hired as the first Chicana professor at North Texas. Within a month of her arrival she was chosen to serve as faculty sponsor to MASO. Several years later she was appointed the Assistant Vice President for Multicultural Affairs and helped implement the next two groups: the Hispanic Student Business Association and a Latino group for journalism students.
2012 was a banner year for Hispanic students. The Hispanic student population increased by 11.4 percent: from 5,250 in 2011 to 6,093 in 2012. In May UNT held its first Raza graduation. This involved a bilingual ceremony to bring cultural awareness and celebrate Latino culture and heritage. For Hispanic Heritage Month in September the UNT Libraries held a symposium and Special Collections sponsored an exhibit titled “Raíces: Raza History at UNT.” To find out more about Hispanic students at UNT and the online exhibit see: https://exhibits.library.unt.edu/raices In 2012 UNT had 20 organizations specialized for Hispanic students, including two sororities, four fraternities, and several business and professional organizations.
– By Lisa Brown
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