In business administration sophomore Nicholas Perez’s hometown of La Mirada, California, he could see a person of just about any race or ethnicity anywhere in his neighborhood.
After arriving in San Luis Obispo for Week of Welcome (WOW), Perez felt instead like he was seeing “almost the same thing over and over.” Although he participated in the Cross-Cultural Experience during the WOW, which creates orientation groups where underrepresented students can bond, he said the first two weeks of class were lonesome.
“When it’s a class of 35 and you feel like one or two are the only cultural students in the classroom … you feel like you shouldn’t be here,” Perez said. “But obviously that’s what you’re here for, to prove them wrong.”
“But obviously that’s what you’re here for, to prove them wrong”
Perez said he was able to find self-fulfillment in the Hispanic Business Student Association (HBSA), a student club connecting Latinx Orfalea College of Business (OCOB) students with potential employers in the human resources, accounting and entrepreneurship sectors, to name a few.
The club was founded in 1984 by alumna Maria Rodriguez, who wanted to create a support system among students who felt underrepresented in the Cal Poly student population. Perez attended weekly Thursday meetings at 11 a.m. in Business (building 3) and made lasting friendships in the club, most of them stemming from conversations where older members would give advice on how to study for midterms.
At the end of the day, Perez said he believes in the power of individual students to change campus climate for the better.
“It’s power to us, it’s power to the people,” Perez said. “Are we gonna make the impact or not? Because I feel like administration here doesn’t do enough, so it’s all in our hands.”
HBSA takes action by participating in cultural events on campus like ID Week in January, where they facilitated dialogues of inclusion and identity in the workplace alongside other clubs, including the Multicultural Business Program, Women in Business and the Cal Poly Accounting Club.
HBSA is effective at getting Latinx OCOB students involved with the club, but HBSA President Nancy Mora said she wants to expand their reach to students from different colleges.
“I feel like we definitely lack a little in being involved in the campus as a whole,” Mora said. “I definitely want to see if HBSA can reach out to other cultural clubs and just kinda maybe plan some sort of event and coordinate something together, just so they know that we’re also here to support everyone and not just [OCOB].”
Business administration junior Samantha Gonzalez said she can attest to the effectiveness of HBSA’s support system. Gonzalez felt homesick during her freshman year fall quarter and considered leaving Cal Poly before her counselor recommended joining HSBA.
“[In] all my business classes … [I was] kinda intimidated to speak and raise my hand and stuff like that as a freshman,” Gonzalez said. “Multicultural business program and HBSA, just having them … helped me feel more empowered and encouraged to be the one … who shared during class.”