El Centro director left mark on center, moves to new position

Gerson Flores

In 1985, Guadalupe Salazar arrived at Colorado State University as an office coordinator for El Centro. This year, she serves as the director for the cultural center for the last time. After over 25 years as director, Salazar is moving to a new position, and the search for the new director of El Centro begins.

Salazar will move to a new position within CSU, leaving a vacant spot for the director of El Centro.

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Leading the search is Kathy Sisneros, the assistant vice president for Student Affairs. Sisneros oversees all cultural resource centers, and it is her job to try to find the new director for El Centro.

“We’re looking for someone who continues with the passion and commitment to help our Latinx students (and to) build on the foundation that Lupe (Salazar) has left,” Sisneros said.

Applications for the position closed on Feb. 24, and the desired start date for the new director is July 22, according to Jobs @ CSU.

Within that time, Sisneros and a council board made up of faculty and students will select the candidates they believe to be most qualified, make phone interviews and select the new director.

According to Sisneros, CSU is trying to find a director that will support students in the best way possible.

“That’s the core of (director) work: to provide students a safe space and a place of belonging,” Sisneros said.

Being a director offers many opportunities to help the community through the cultural centers, Salazar said.

“As a director, you have the opportunity to create programs that help Latinx students with their success here at CSU,” Salazar said.

Salazar said being a director for a cultural center is more than just a job; it’s an opportunity to create bonds with students and help them get through the difficulties they might be going through in their college journey.

“I have students tell me, ‘If it wasn’t for you, I would have never finished at CSU,’” Salazar said. “I have met incredible students, and I have loved this position for over 33 years. It was an opportunity to be a mentor, a role model, and I was just so excited that I had a full-time job.”

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When she was presented with this opportunity, she was a single mother of four and believed education was something her kids needed.

“My kids needed to see me in this type of position so they could embrace education,” Salazar said. “I wanted to increase our student population, funding, have more leadership opportunities and be more connected with the community.”

After all these years, Salazar said she feels she has never wavered from her original mission: to make El Centro a place of more opportunity. Salazar believes she has grown as a director and a person in the position.

“I grew up in el barrio, and I have identified as a strong Chicana,” Salazar said. “You can take the Chicana out of el barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the Chicana.”

Sisneros said, for the last few decades, Salazar has been a staunch supporter of the students at CSU.

“She’s had a wonderful tenure here that has a deep, rich history,” Sisneros said. “She cares deeply about students, and she is a staunch resource for students.”

Salazar has taught several classes here at CSU, served as a translator and community leader, received various awards and was nominated for many others. She has plans to open her own scholarship: the Dr. Lupe Salazar Legacy Award.

Being director for El Centro has given her the opportunity to meet incredible students, and according to Salazar, when she leaves, she’ll take that with her. 

“(Students) impacted my life, and I’ve impacted their (lives), and I’ll take that with me when I go,” Salazar said. “I will miss the students the most. Seeing them succeed, I feel just as proud as their parents do. It’s going to be bittersweet; whenever I think or talk about it I start crying.”

Students at El Centro know Salazar is leaving and are prepared for what’s to come. 

“I love the current director,” said Valarie Lopez, the marketing coordinator for El Centro and a business major at CSU. “My first year I remember being so terrified. The first time I met her I remember her hugging me and saying, ‘Hello mija.’ She’s the sweetest, and she definitely encompasses what El Centro aims to be.”

Lopez is upset but finds comfort in knowing it is Salazar’s decision.

Other students say they feel sad, but they believe it will work out for everyone.

Finding El Centro was like finding a new community,” said Omar Roman, an agricultural science major at CSU.

Roman said he will miss Salazar’s kindness but hopes for a good transfer.

To the new director, Salazar leaves advice.

“If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it,” Salazar said. “Come in and be a good listener, don’t get caught up in gossip, listen to the students and just have fun, and things will fall into place.”

Despite a new director and faculty coming to El Centro next semester, Sisneros and Salazar have it in mind to keep the atmosphere of El Centro the same.

Gerson Flores Rojas can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @GersonFloresRo1.