Feature Story, Global, Student Life

LA CASA

February 18, 2019 – by Cole Hatcher

Brayams Ayala Ramos ’20 (left) and Isabelle Rodriguez ’21 plan to live in Ohio Wesleyan’s newest small living unit, LA CASA, when it opens in the fall. The two students proposed the SLU to support the OWU’s Latin American, Hispanic, and Latinx students. (Photo by Kit Weber ’20)

Ohio Wesleyan Approves Housing to Support Latin American, Hispanic, and Latinx Cultures

In fall 2019, Ohio Wesleyan will open its first housing option created to support the University’s Latin American, Hispanic, and Latinx students.

LA CASA – an acronym for Latin American Culture and Student Anecdotes – will be located in The Jim and Eilleen Dicke House, one of the University’s small living units (SLUs). LA CASA will fill one side of the Rowland Avenue “SLUplex.” The SLUs provide themed housing opportunities for students interested in specific issues, such as the environment, social justice, or interfaith initiatives.

“I think that the most important aspect about the house is bringing the sense of family to the OWU community,” says Brayams Ayala Ramos ’20, who collaborated with Isabelle Rodriguez ’21 to propose LA CASA.

“The mission will be successful if, in the future, people know about Latin/Hispanic culture and know that we can embrace different aspects from all over the world to create a better community,” Ayala Ramos says.

Ayala Ramos, who grew up in Jumiltepec Morelos, Mexico, is a triple major in pre-medicine, pre-zoology, and Spanish. He is president of Ohio Wesleyan’s VIVA organization and hopes to serve as moderator of the new SLU when it opens in August. Rodriguez of San Antonio, Texas, is a double major in neuroscience and pre-medicine with a minor in Spanish. She also is involved in VIVA.

“It is our goal to bring together the students who come from different Latin American countries to promote inclusivity success within the community and to encourage each other personally, culturally, socially, and academically,” Ayala Ramos and Rodriguez say in the new SLU’s mission statement. “LA CASA will be a safe and welcoming place for all our identifying Latin students, as well as any other student who is excited to learn, embrace, and promote Latin American, Hispanic, and Latinx cultures on campus.”

Each year, all of Ohio Wesleyan’s small living units complete house projects and host events to share information about their focus issues, and LA CASA already is looking forward to making a positive impact through its actions and activities.

“Through our community-targeted cultural and educational programs, Spanish-translation services, and related community service initiatives,” Ayala Ramos and Rodriguez say, “LA CASA will impact the Delaware community in a wide variety of venues, such as schools and libraries, neighborhood and parent associations, medical and mental health services, judicial and police services, the arts community, (and) local churches.”

And LA CASA plans to make a positive impact on campus as well.

“This SLU will be the first one to specifically, inclusively, and comprehensively promote Latin American cultures, not only being a crucial part of OWU’s history and traditions, but also providing a great example of how the school supports minority and diverse populations,” Ayala Ramos and Rodriguez say. “We will do projects with different clubs such as VIVA, as well as get involved with Greek life through intercultural initiatives.”

As for the SLU’s name, Ayala Ramos and Rodriguez say a lot of thought went into the name LA CASA.

“Every single one of us has a story to tell (hence, our use of the term ‘anecdote’ in our title), and we want to make sure that each one of our stories can positively influence other students, particularly freshmen,” they explain. “Therefore, students who apply for LA CASA must show the ability to commit to LA CASA’s mission and the ongoing development of their leadership skills.”

In informing LA CASA that it was approved to organize as a SLU this fall, Brian Emerick, director of Residential Life, told the students: “The selection and review committee appreciated your mission and the commitment you expressed in making your new SLU a success. We’re confident you’ll do amazing work on behalf of the residents of LA CASA and the greater OWU community. Congratulations!”

Professor Juan Armando Rojas Joo, Ph.D., and University Chaplain Jon Powers will serve as advisers to the new small living unit, with both the offices of Multicultural Student Affairs and Community Service Learning providing support.

“I believe the creation of LA CASA is a milestone in the University’s efforts to become more inclusive of our diverse student community,” says Rojas Joo, who also serves as OWU’s chief diversity officer and associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion. “Hispanic/Latinx students represent fastest-growing college student group in the nation, and Ohio Wesleyan’s Hispanic/Latinx student population is close to reaching 8 percent of the total OWU student population.

“LA CASA will provide a place in which our Hispanic and Latinx students can have a safe space, grow together, and promote their cultural, linguistic, and heritage identity with the University and the Delaware communities,” Rojas Joo says.

Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s small living units at www.owu.edu/small-living-units.