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Staff affinity group spotlight: LaSA

You might remember the Latino Staff Association (LaSA) from last year’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. Celebrated throughout Mexico and by people of Mexican heritage elsewhere, LaSA’s Día de los Muertos celebration is the affinity group’s signature event. Last year, LaSA joined UCOP staff together to decorate calaveras (sugar skulls), watch Pixar’s movie “Coco” — set in Mexico on Día de los Muertos — and contribute to an ofrenda, an altar-like display with pictures and mementos of departed loved ones.

Providing resources and community at UCOP

Founded in 1993, LaSA is the staff affinity group dedicated to promoting the general welfare and interests of Latinos at UCOP. Members also strive to serve all UCOP staff and support the surrounding community.

LaSA’s main activities include scholarship fundraising — sometimes through tamale sales; hosting cultural events, exhibits and dances; group outings to Oakland A’s baseball games and philanthropic endeavors.

Belinda Vea, policy program analyst, Student Affairs, joined LaSA in 2013. She says that the group has remained active throughout the years by hosting events popular throughout the UCOP community and offering colleagues opportunities to join them in giving back.

In 2013 LaSA hosted a Giving Tree, which fundraised 227 gifts for children through a local charity. “People had a lot of interest in helping out at this event,” Vea says. “This has been a great way for community members to get active and get to know our group.”

Alina Tejera, administrative analyst for special projects, Student Affairs, also joined LaSA in 2013. She explains that members “strive to be taken seriously as a resource and community organization.”

To this end, LaSA members have worked with students at UC Berkeley and local high schools to provide scholarships and mentorships, informed by Vea and Tejera’s work in Student Affairs. Around UCOP, LaSA also partners with other staff affinity groups to help host complementary events.

Some of their partnership events have included:

  • President’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women (PACSW): LaSA cosponsored Maria Echaveste — policy and program development director of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, UC Berkeley School of Law, and former deputy chief of staff to President Bill Clinton — as a speaker at a Women We Admire lecture event on October 24, 2014.
  • Asian-Pacific Islander Association (APISA): LaSA cosponsored “When Mexicans and Filipinos Join Together: The Farmworker Movement and Unity in the Making,” a Cesar Chavez Day event on March 29, 2017.
  • UCOP Pride: LaSA members volunteer at the annual Pride Month ice cream social and other UCOP Pride events throughout the year.

These partnerships create a sense of shared interest and community. “The staff affinity groups promote each other and go to each other’s functions,” Vea says. “We want to be holistic in our promotion of many kinds of diversity.”

LaSA has also created a sense of community between UCOP colleagues in Oakland and at the UCPath Center in Riverside. As a part of the Día de los Muertos celebrations, LaSA worked with employees at the UCPath Center to help them host a local series of events to celebrate their Mexican heritage.

“It was great to bridge communities between Oakland and Riverside,” Vea says.

Tejera adds that staff affinity groups provide more than just a space to celebrate different cultural heritages: “We provide community for each other. We bring morale and a sense of belonging. ‘Affinity’ is too narrow a term to describe these groups’ importance at UCOP.”

How can I get involved?

For Tejera, participating in LaSA’s social and cultural events, as well as its philanthropic initiatives, has been both personally rewarding and professionally helpful.

“LaSA got me out of my shell,” Tejera says. “It’s not only a great community to be a part of, but also a great networking opportunity.”

And, “you don’t have to be Latinx to join LaSA,” Tejera says. “We welcome all allies.”

To get involved, check out LaSA’s website, which provides details about current events and fundraising projects, as well as an opportunity to become a member and get notified about upcoming events.

Wondering how else you can get involved at UCOP? Check out all UCOP staff affinity groups.

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