USC Upstate Announces South Carolina’s First University-based Latino/a Center

An aerial view of USC Upstate's campus.

The University of South Carolina Upstate has announced that this coming fall it will roll out the South Carolina Centro Latino (SCCL), the state’s first university-based center for the study and appreciation of Latino/a students, faculty, staff and students.

Nicknamed “El Centro,” SCCL will seek to establish USC Upstate as the university of choice for Latino/a students, to increase retention of Latino/a students and to advocate for Latino/a families and communities across South Carolina and beyond.

It will carry out its mission by providing thought leadership on authentic community outreach and inclusion through three pillars: Latino/a Interdisciplinary Studies, the Public Humanities, and Translation and Community Interpreting.

“The needs of our Latina and Latino faculty, staff and students is growing each day as we expand and enrich our campus with a more diverse student body and the Upstate region becomes more diverse,” said USC Upstate Provost David Schecter. “The Latino/a population in the state is roughly 6 percent, and that is mirrored in our campus percentage of students, but it is the fastest growing population and one that we believe needs more attention and resources.”

“Considerable work is already being done in the Upstate and on our campus to support the Latino/a community, but we will now place that work under the larger umbrella of El Centro and create an institutional space of belonging, civility, wellness and equity,” Schecter added.

SCCL Leadership

Dr. Araceli Hernández-Laroche will serve as director of SCCL. She is an associate professor of modern languages, and the foreign-language coordinator and assistant chair of the Department of Language, Literature and Composition at USC Upstate.

The first tenured Mexican-American professor in USC Upstate history, Hernández-Laroche has studied and taught in France, directed an immersion program in Spain, conducted research in Italy and speaks four languages. She is past-president of the state chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French and represents undergraduate French programs in the U.S. and Canada on the executive committee of the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages, one of the projects of the Modern Languages Association (MLA). Hernández-Laroche also serves on the MLA’s Innovative Grants Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee Valuing the Public Humanities. She is currently co-writing in Spanish a book on migration with professors at Mexican universities.

Active in the community, Hernández-Laroche serves on the boards of Spartanburg’s Chapman Cultural Center, the Spartanburg Academic Movement and the LGBT Fund of Spartanburg. She represents Alianza Spartanburg on OneSpartanburg Inc.’s Inclusion Council. Hernández-Laroche was named the 2020 Career Woman of the Year by the Business and Professional Women of South Carolina and the 2020 Inclusion Advocate of the Year by OneSpartanburg. She was selected to participate in the 2020-2021 cohort of the Emerging Leaders Program through the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Hernández-Laroche received a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in French and Francophone studies and Italian studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. She earned her Master of Arts and Ph.D. in French from the University of California, Berkeley.

Maria Francisco Montesó, a senior instructor in Spanish at USC Upstate, will serve as the center’s assistant director. Montesó graduated from Universitat Jaume I, Spain, and earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in translation and interpreting studies in Spanish, Catalan, English and German. She has more than 10 years of experience teaching Spanish, translation and interpreting.

Montesó is a Ph.D. candidate. Her research interests center on educational interpreting and pedagogy in translation and interpreting studies. She incorporates in-class pedagogical innovative projects and technology-intensive teaching-learning methodologies as part of the Quality Enhancement Plan and Active Learning cohorts. Montesó creates a service-learning component in her translation and interpreting courses, through which her students provide translation and interpretation services in the South Carolina Upstate in order to support non-profit organizations’ outreach into the area’s Hispanic community. She also created a unique certificate course to train bilinguals in English and Spanish to become professional interpreters in educational settings.

“As immigrants from Spain and Mexico, respectively, Maria and I are overjoyed and honored to lead El Centro,” Hernández-Laroche said. “This collaborative, community-based, cultural and linguistic approach will increase the visibility of Latino/a and Hispanic talent and contributions in all spheres of higher education and civic life, especially as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted these communities.”

SCCL Mission

SCCL will seek to carry out its mission through a variety of initiatives that include:

  • Organizing Latina/o Interdisciplinary Studies and Talks on Civic Leadership and Mentoring
  • Hosting a “Latinas in Higher Ed Summit”
  • Hosting research forums on local and global impacts of migration
  • Expanding a Global Studies minor and certificate
  • Increasing interdisciplinary and multilingual public humanities scholarship
  • Sponsoring podcasts, interactive lectures and other public-facing work in other languages
  • Expanding the Alicante Study Abroad Program
  • Expanding a Service Learning in Translation and Interpreting Studies Minor
  • Training state professionals for Translation and Interpreting in School Settings
  • Offering Translation and Interpreting courses for school districts in South Carolina
  • Developing Translation and Interpreting certificate courses for law enforcement
  • Hosting an annual international Translation and Interpreting Conference
  • Supporting Scholarship in Translation and Interpreting Studies.
  • Building on the legacy of UnidosUS Líderes Avanzando through College Program
  • Providing services to parents in English, Spanish and other languages
  • Supporting a Latino/a Employee Resource Group

For more information about El Centro, please email [email protected].