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Faculty feeds students home-cooked meals

Published: Friday, September 21, 2012

Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 05:09

Tanner Garza

Students can easily feel out of place when stepping onto the A&M campus for the first time. “Mi Casa Es Su Casa” helps freshmen and transfer students overcome their initial feelings of unease and helps them become a part of the Aggie family.

The Memorial Student Center’s Committee for Awareness of Mexican-American Culture, CAMAC, invited Hispanic A&M students, faculty and staff to their opening ceremony for “Mi Casa Es Su Casa.” The event marks the beginning of a yearlong tradition that will take place each month as A&M faculty and staff welcome students to their homes for dinner.

“Mi Casa Es Su Casa” began in 2005 by five A&M faculty members who invited small groups of students to monthly dinners. Since then, the program has expanded to include more than 100 participants and 30 faculty and staff hosts. The program fosters opportunities for Hispanic students to get to know each other and develop relationships for social and academic progress.

Melanie Weiser, adviser for CAMAC, said throughout the years their team has dedicated themselves to educating and serving the community while diversifying the campus.

“It is our desire to create a ‘home away from home’ for students,” Weiser said. “MSC CAMAC not only provides educational and cultural opportunities for our students but it also creates a family for them in Aggieland.”

Alice Villalobos, nutrition and food science professor, said the program gave her the opportunity to foster a relationship with Sara and help her in the process.

“As we introduced ourselves around the table, Sara said she was a biomedical sciences major wanting to work in a laboratory, and at the time I was seeking a student worker for my lab,” Villalobos said. “I was glad to get to know her and hire her. She has been with us since.”

Villalobos said she continues to participate as a host in the program because she believes in the cause of welcoming students with her culture and hospitality.

“It’s ‘my home is your home.’ Home, not house,” she said. “To be able to connect with others, share with them my Mexican descent and culture, is a valuable experience, and a great way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Once a month, 8-10 students are invited to a faculty or staff member’s home. Students are transported via van by MSC CAMAC staff, and student leaders are chosen to assist with the facilitation of discussions while at each person’s home. Dinners are open to everyone regardless of ethnicity, background or interest.

Meagan Gonzales, senior biomedical sciences major and marketing director for MSC CAMAC, has been involved with the program for three years. She said the program is crucial in breaking down the barrier between students and faculty.

“We provide transportation and everything students need to make sure we’re accommodating everyone for a great experience,” Gonzales said. “With this program you are able to relax and meet professors and staff members outside of the normal class environment.”

Sara Zarate, junior biomedical sciences major and vice chair of MSC CAMAC, said the program is designed to help students become confident in their networking skills.

“Many of the students that attend ‘Mi Casa’ on Thursday nights have had a long week juggling school and work,” Zarate said. “‘Mi Casa’ provides these students with a home cooked meal and a friendly face.”

Zarate said the program allows hosts and students to learn from each other and unify as Aggies. She said through the program she connected with a professor who later hired her for a job she wanted.

“One of the main components of Latin culture is family togetherness and a sense of belonging; coincidentally this is true of A&M’s culture also,” Zarate said. “Programs such as ‘Mi Casa’ allow for the students to not only bond with each other in the comfort of a home but with faculty and staff, too.”

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