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Learn Boldly: TLU's Mexican American Student Association

When Ashley Rizo ’22 first transferred to TLU, she was excited but also unsure of how she would connect with other students. The Nursing major found that support in MASA—the university’s Mexican American Student Association. Aside from the cultural aspects, Rizo said she began to realize just how much MASA made an effort to welcome people from all backgrounds, serve their community, and share what it means to be Latinx with the entire campus. Now, she serves as the organization’s president in addition to being a member of the Student Government Association, the Xi Tau sorority, and a Resident Assistant. Rizo says during her first MASA meeting, the group started off with La Platica or “the talk.” This invitation to share and discuss anything from opinions on certain topics to ideas for events and even Lotería nights, felt like a safe space for her and others to truly embrace who they are.

As a non-traditional student, former police officer, and current sergeant first class in the U.S. Army Reserve, MASA Vice President Jose Acuña ’22 says the group definitely promotes self-discovery.

“MASA gives members an awareness of current issues and concerns in the community and how to be socially responsible,” the Business major said. “Being Mexican American with English as my second language did not allow me time to experience and learn about other cultures due to a lackof support when I attended high school. MASA has given me and other students the opportunity to feel safe while away from home and allows us to share ideas, culture, history, beliefs, and political views without being criticized. Dr. Jennifer Mata is our faculty advisor, and she also makes sure we have fun while we’re learning about important Hispanic and Chicano leaders who inspire others.”

Acuña, who is also a Student Government Association senator and a member of the co-ed business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, says that his experience in law enforcement taught him about how being part of an organization is very important if an individual wants to make an impact in their community. Rizo was also drawn to the community service aspect of MASA, and the first event she participated in was a food drive hosted in the Alumni Student Center. Annual events are common for the organization and are also often very special to the members themselves.

“Another event we do each year is called Lifeline Breakfast,” Rizo said. “We make breakfast for all the custodial staff at TLU and give them a gift bag. It’s our way of thanking them for all the hard work they do to keep TLU up and running. We also help decorate Hein Dining Hall for Latinx Heritage Month during September through mid-October, and there is food prepared from different Latin American countries throughout the month. This brings cultural awareness to other students, and we even bring in a mariachi group on September 16 to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day.”

Another central focus of MASA is family. As an officially designated Hispanic Serving Institution with more than half of the student body identifying as first generation, TLU is dedicated to serving these specific populations. Rizo says that as a first-generation student, there are often worries from both the parents and the student since no one before them has gone through the college experience.

“There are questions like what is expected from a first-year student? Or how can TLU guarantee a safe environment for my student?” she said. “While MASA is all about educating others about our culture, we are also here to help students feel at home by giving them a safe space to be with others who are also first-generation students or who have more experience attending TLU.”

One of the most special things members look forward to is receiving their serape stole right before graduation to wear as a proud reminder of being part of MASA. A serape is a colorful woolen shawl traditionally worn in Mexico. “The stoles are awarded during a meeting we have called La Despedida, which means ‘the farewell’,” she said. “Each graduating student is given a chance to read an essay to other members and talk about how their experience with MASA has impacted them throughout their college years.”

For Acuña, the impact of his college years is extremely special. All three of his children are also TLU Bulldogs.

“Having two of my own children graduate TLU before me and attending TLU at the same time as my daughter Kassandra has given me a new view on the importance of family while our sons and daughters are away from home,” he said. “Chicanos have received a biased attitude and treatment from others in the past, and I have become aware of the inequality and current injustice we still face. MASA has been able to strongly advocate for all students and the Seguin community by supporting and improving diversity and equality programming. My son Alex and my daughter Margarita are alumni now and they were both part of MASA. As the current vice president of this wonderful organization, I would like to continue encouraging students to get involved. I’m also really looking forward to walking the stage in May 2022 alongside my daughter and fellow MASA member Kassandra, who will be the fourth Acuña to graduate from TLU. I’m very proud of my family and I’m very proud to be a Bulldog.”

MASA Vice President Jose Acuña and President Ashley Rizo proudly display their recent StudentOrganization of The Year award in the Center For Mexican American Studies.

Former MASA President and Psychology major Amaris Diaz ‘20, proudly wearing her serape stole