Through a wide array of activities and events, Arizona State University annually celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of Latino and Hispanic individuals and communities across the United States. The monthlong celebration commemorates National Hispanic Heritage Month, observed Sept. 15–Oct. 15.
As a highlight of the celebration, the university recognizes distinguished ASU alumni for their achievements and contributions to the Hispanic and Latino community in Arizona. The 2021 honorees were announced and presented on the field at the Oct. 8 ASU football game at Sun Devil Stadium. The honorees were also recognized at the Access ASU Partner Tailgate in La Casita, held just prior to kickoff.
“We’re so proud to recognize the 2021 honorees for Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month who have done so much for not only the ASU community but for Arizona families,” said Edmundo Hidalgo, vice president of outreach with Educational Outreach and Student Services at ASU.
2021 ASU staff honoree: Provost Nancy Gonzales
Nancy Gonzales is the executive vice president and university provost at ASU. A first-generation college student who earned bachelor's degrees in psychology and biology from ASU, Gonzales has dedicated her career to expanding educational access and conducting research in culturally diverse populations.
Gonzales is proud to be the first ASU alum to serve as provost and considers it an honor and a responsibility to advance the Hispanic community.
“When you are raised in a tight-knit Hispanic community like I was, giving back to the community comes naturally; it's something that you are proud to do,” she said.
“It has been a great honor for me that I've been able to also give back as a researcher, a teacher and now as university provost. Arizona State University this year will be designated federally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, and as an institution serving a large number of Hispanic students, it is our responsibility to make sure that they succeed.”
Gonzales serves as ASU’s chief academic officer, advancing all educational programs and degrees for ASU’s diverse student population and the world-class faculty needed to train the next-generation workforce and leaders of our state and nation. Prior to leading as university provost, Gonzales was the dean of natural sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She has also enjoyed a long research and teaching career as a Foundation Professor of psychology.
2021 alumni honoree: Maria Echeveste
Maria Echeveste remembers her time at ASU fondly, and not just because of the liberal arts degree she earned; she met her husband, Craig, at a reception for the Hispanic Business Student Association. As the senior vice president and community relations manager for Bank of America’s Phoenix Local Markets Office, Echeveste now executes philanthropic programs to the tune of $2 million annually that address economic opportunities in Phoenix.
She said that she’s so grateful to be a part of ASU to help solve inequalities in Arizona.
“ASU is an important institution in our community, in our country and around the world,” she said. “And when you look at that intersection of how are they addressing needs such as housing, climate, heat islands, education … a lot of the inequities are impacting our Latino community.”
Echeveste serves on many local boards and committees, including on the board of directors for the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, the Arizona Grantmakers Forum, the Phoenix Local Initiative Support Corporation Local Advisory Committee, the Arizona Partnership for Healthy Communities, Arizona Housing Coalition and Arizona Community Reinvestment Collaborative, in addition to her work with ASU Leveraging Talent AZ and Be A Leader.
2021 community organization honoree: Aliento
Aliento is an Arizona organization that serves undocumented, DACA and mixed-immigration-status families to transform trauma into hope and action. Founder and CEO Reyna Montoya grew up undocumented in Arizona. A proud ASU alum with degrees in political science and transborder studies and a minor in dance as a first-generation student, Montoya launched Aliento in 2016 after years of organizing, and the group has touched the lives of more than 25,000 people through youth-led arts, leadership development and community organizing.
Montoya said that after going to school in predominantly white spaces, arriving at ASU was a breath of fresh air, realizing “there’s people that look like me.” Raising awareness of the power and value of diversity is very important to her.
“I feel a lot of pride to know that our music, our heritage, our culture matters and brings a unique perspective, and that I don't have to choose between being a Latina, being Mexican, being American,” she said. “This is what home means. And ASU and Arizona are my home, and I can be Latina. I can be proud. And I can be an example for other generations to be reminded that that diversity is a strength, not a weakness.”
Aliento Education and External Affairs Director Jose Patiño was born in Mexico and became involved in the Dreamer movement in 2009. A DACA recipient and first-generation student, Patiño earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from ASU and now leads Aliento’s efforts to gain in-state tuition and access to scholarships for all Arizona students, regardless of their immigration status.
He is proud to serve his community and believes in giving back through opening up access to higher education.
“I think at the end of the day, nobody can succeed alone,” he said. “That's what it's about. It's about being able to not only pay it forward, but being there for one another.”