The Austin Community College District (ACC) names Dr. Gary Moreno as the new director of El Centro, the college's Latino/Latin American Studies Center. Moreno will continue El Centro's mission to build connections between the college and the broader Central Texas Latino community.
"El Centro has been a home for many students and employees at ACC. It's where we come together to share in conversation and ideas. We are excited to welcome Dr. Moreno to continue this good work," says Dr. Richard Rhodes, ACC chancellor. "His experience and commitment to the Hispanic community will help us grow and connect in even more meaningful ways."
ACC's Hispanic student population is the fast-growing at the college — topping more than 15,500 in fall 2019 — about 38 percent of the total student population at the time. The college is recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution, a federal designation indicating the college maintains 25 percent or greater full-time equivalent Hispanic enrollment, and was recognized with the Seal of Excelencia by Excelencia in Education for its positive role in serving Latino students.
"I want El Centro to be a resource for the community for anything related to Latino history and culture here in Austin, an event space, and a place where students can come and use the resources we have available," says Moreno. "I want everyone to feel welcome — not just Latino students, but anybody who has any interest in Latino culture and history."
Among the resources available at El Centro is the Tijerina Book Collection, which is one of the most comprehensive sets of books about Mexican-American history in the state of Texas and includes volumes on voting rights, culture, and education. This collection belonged to longtime ACC Professor Andres Tijerina and was donated to the college by a third party.
As El Centro's director, Moreno will collaborate with the college's Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Center, the African-American Cultural Center, and the chief equity, diversity & inclusion officer, as well as community partners.
Moreno earned his doctorate in Latin American History from the University of Oklahoma and has a forthcoming publication with the University of New Mexico Press titled, Charro: The History of a Cultural Icon. He previously taught at Rose State Community College near Oklahoma City. He has had an interest and affinity for our community since first visiting Austin in 2012 to conduct research at the Nettie Lee Benson Library at the University of Texas.
Moreno's hire comes after Dr. Mariano Diaz Miranda, the founding director of El Centro, retired in late 2019.