To the Friends of Chicano and Latino Studies
It has been my privilege for the past ten years to work with Dr. Louis Mendoza in his capacity as a Professor and Chair of the Department, as well as in his roll as Associate Vice Provost in the Office for Equity and Diversity. It is with sadness that we announce his departure from the University of Minnesota. Yet we are excited by the possibilities that await Dr. Mendoza in his new position with Arizona State University. Dr. Mendoza has been a teacher, friend, and mentor to many students, as well as a trusted colleague to faculty across this campus and beyond.
Within a very short time of his arrival, Dr. Mendoza forged meaningful relationships with many organizations outside the University like Academia César Chávez, La Escuelita, El Colegio, the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network, and the Minnesota Humanities Center among others. He has also worked with incarcerated members of our communities at Stillwater.
In theoretical discussions, I have always been struck by Dr. Mendoza's innovative ideas, logical and practical thinking skills, and the significance of the questions he raises. I have also appreciated the intensity with which he approaches community problems and advocates for Latino youth. Mendoza works remarkably well in groups because of his ability to listen, to succinctly sum up arguments and to move discussions in productive directions by bridging seemingly intractable positions on opposite sides of any debate.
As a leader, he has helped to redefine the intellectual core mission of the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies and to forge strong connections between classroom instruction and experiential learning. In the past decade, Mendoza has published six books-three as the sole author and three in collaboration with other writers, scholars or editors. He has also written and co-authored refereed journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, and non-refereed pieces as an important public intellectual. Louis has become an important and sought after keynote speaker, roundtable discussant, and workshop leader throughout the five-state area and was the primary founder of the Minnesota Network of Latinos in Higher Education. In the summer of 2013, Dr. Mendoza's international reputation was confirmed when he was invited by the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, to teach a course in Puebla, Mexico on "Greater Mexico and the National Imaginary."
In addition to his impressive scholarly record, Dr. Mendoza has become an important public intellectual who has been interviewed for several national news programs, political topics programs, and televised investigative reports. He has also often been quoted in newspapers and news magazines regarding immigration, the socioeconomic condition of the Chicano and Latino communities, and public policies impacting Latinos. Much of this public recognition comes as the result of his scholarly expertise in the field and the ease with which he appears on camera, but it is also linked to Mendoza's remarkable "Journey Across America." As part of a very unique research project, this 8500-mile bicycle trip took him around the perimeter of the U.S. to discuss the changing demographics of the U.S. Over the six months of his journey, Mendoza created a unique and significant archive of important interviews that will be used by historians as well as social and cultural researchers for many years to come.
One of his lasting legacies will be the Mira Me Corazón event-an annual fundraiser for student scholarships that jointly benefits The Department of Chicano and Latino Studies and our community partner site, El Colgeio. As part of an effort to recruit and retain talented Latino Students, Mendoza-in collaboration with other faculty members and education professionals-started CASA SOL, a living learning community for incoming freshman and new transfer students. As the driving force behind this initiative, Mendoza created a space where Latino students new to the University could find community, focus on their academic pursuits, and take advantage of opportunities for leadership. This program has shown remarkable success at shepherding students from their freshman year through graduation. Over the years, Mendoza has shown a particular dedication to these students, to preparing them to see themselves as historical actors and engaged citizens. Several of the first participants are now in graduate or other professional schools across the country.
Mendoza was referred to in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, as a "brilliant analyst" who had critiqued and challenged some of the major works in Tejano and Chicano history. They went on to say that he had written some of "the most engaging and thoughtful" discussions on history and narrative and that his work was a must read for all "institutional historians." While we respect and know these things to be true, we are more likely to miss Louis for his sense of humor, his gentle chiding, and his tireless work ethic on behalf of Latinas/os.
It should be abundantly clear that Mendoza treats intellectual production and service to a variety of constituents, not as isolated deployments of his individual talents, but as part of a collective and ongoing effort to educate responsible citizens and to dismantle, or at least mitigate, inequality. Like all shooting stars, he passed by us much too quickly. But it was no accident that brought him here. We needed him. Unfortunately the time has come for all of us to move on. The state, the Twin Cities, the University, the College of Liberal Arts and many of us will miss him terribly. Yet we feel sure that he will remain in our corner, no matter where he happens to reside. We will try our best to continue and expand on the good work he has started. Adios, profesor querido.