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Northern Michigan University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion serves a variety of students including those who are Hispanic.

Jessica Cruz is the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. She says, “We try really hard to build a strong sense of community for folks who are from historically underrepresented groups to establish a strong sense of belonging.”

This semester there are 268 Latino or Latina students at NMU. One of them is Marissa Bekkering.

She says, “It’s a really good place. I know it’s not like the first university you would think of in terms of diversity but there’s still community here.”

Marissa grew up near Grand Rapids but part of her heritage is Cuban. She’s also a member of the Latino Student Union at NMU.

Marissa says, “LSU has really helped me almost find my culture. Everybody is amazing. They’re like a family.”

Jessica Ortiz is also a member of the Latino Student Union. She’s a first generation American with Mexican heritage.

Ortiz is a senior from the Chicago area. NMU was appealing to her.

Ortiz adds, “I think for me it was just the school and the program. The C.J. program. I’m a criminal justice major and also because I wanted to get away from the city and out of my comfort zone and just explore the U.P.”

One lesson the Latino Student Union tries to get people to understand is that Latino, Latina and Hispanic doesn’t just mean Mexican.

Ortiz says, “As a group we try to include everybody. There’s Peruvians, Argentineans, Cubans and Mexicans. There’s people with backgrounds from all over.”

Maria Arenillas is a professor in NMU’s Department of Languages, Literatures and International Studies.

She’s been living in Marquette since 2010. It’s a long way from the Patagonia region of Argentina where she’s originally from.

Arenillas says, “One of the things I really enjoy being here is how much I can give to my students or the community in terms of the distance where I come from. What is Patagonia all about or Argentina or South America. I teach a  lot of classes on Latin America. My students always highlight the fact that I can bring something that they don’t even know it was possible.”

The Latino Student Union plans different events throughout the year to raise awareness about their cultures.

An event to expect later this academic year is a baile or dance.