The Hispanic Faculty/Staff Association (HFSA) is a campus-wide organization that has been making a positive impact on the university through advocacy, education and service. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are spotlighting several HFSA members—all proud UT Austin grads—who are leading efforts to make their alma mater a more inclusive, equitable place for Hispanic/Latino faculty, staff and students. Read on to learn more about Yvonne Loya’s good work with the organization and how she is mentoring her fellow colleagues and working with university leadership to increase higher Latino/Hispanic faculty and staff representation on campus.
Senior Outreach Program Coordinator, OnRamps
Role: Co-chair of HFSA Book & Culture Committee and Hispanic Staff Equity Task Force
Years of membership: 21
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Could you please briefly describe your current projects with the HFSA?
This year, I’m overseeing the Book & Culture Committee and the Hispanic Staff Equity Task Force. We’re currently looking at disparities within the Latino staff community and bringing issues like equity pay, mobility and hiring to light. We’re wrapping up the report this month and will present it to the administration along with recommendations.
At the start of the fall semester, what were you looking forward to the most?
I always look forward to our first meeting after taking a break during the summer. Usually around mid-September, our first meeting is very festive as we celebrate Mexican Independence Day. People are overjoyed to see each other again, so it’s really a great way to kick off the semester on a positive note.
How have you benefitted from your decades of service with the HFSA?
I love the organization and connecting with colleagues. It really feels like I’m with family and our meetings and get-togethers fill my soul. For me, meeting with HFSA members is my way of disconnecting from my daily work duties to receive personal enrichment. On a professional level, there are so many opportunities available to members to build upon their skillsets. Just to give you one example, as treasurer, I built strong financial skills and sharpened my leadership abilities. The networking is also highly valuable.
What are some current issues in higher education that impact Hispanic faculty and staff?
Latino representation is always a common issue in higher education. There are simply not enough voices bringing our issues to the table. In my view, there aren’t enough role models for students to look up to. It’s so important for students to turn to people they can trust to show them the way, to help them weigh their pros and cons, to tell them what to expect while navigating college. As a professional, I needed mentors who truly understood me and where I came from. In my culture, speaking out and being vocal isn’t always encouraged, so I really needed someone who understood the systemic and cultural factors that stood in my way.
What other aspects of campus culture do you address in your meetings? Can you give an example?
When I served as chair of the Book and Culture Committee last summer, one of the books we examined sparked discussions about what it means to be an ally, and whether we were pushing ourselves to the extent that we could or should. It was an important time to be introspective and talk about these issues in a safe environment where we could be open with one another. It’s so much easier to have these difficult dialogues in a space where you have the support of the group as a whole.
Could you share a little about your family heritage?
I’m from El Paso and both sides of my family are from Mexico: my mother from Juarez, Chihuahua and my father from Gómez Palacios, Durango in Northern Mexico. He migrated to Juarez and eventually settled in El Paso. My dad was a migrant worker and my mother’s side of the family ran their own businesses, so my family is a blend of agriculture and business.
Could you share a little about your educational journey as a first-gen college student?
Neither of my parents completed their education; my father stopped going to school at age eight, and my mother dropped out of high school. So, I learned everything about college through trial-and-error. I wasn’t sure how to navigate the whole process and ended up changing my major three times. I earned a B.A. in psychology in ’97 at the University of Texas at El Paso and wasn’t sure what path to take next. I moved to Austin with my then-fiancé, and he encouraged me to work at UT and learn about the graduate programs. I ended up working at the business school and discovered my passion for higher education in the process. That’s how I found my way to UT’s College of Education’s master’s program in higher education administration, where I earned my ME.D. in ’03.
What family traditions do you look forward to celebrating the most?
All of our family traditions revolve around food—that’s our favorite way to celebrate! Mom loves to cook, so every Christmas we make the tamales and buñuelos; for Easter, she makes the capirotada, a Mexican bread pudding. And then there’s the dancing! I love dancing to Mexican cumbias every chance I get. The big family Quinceañeras back at home are always such a treat. There’s a big dance component to our celebrations, and it’s always a lot of fun.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’m just glad the HFSA exists and that I have the ability to mentor younger, new professionals. It’s so rewarding to coach others, and I’m happy to share my knowledge with my colleagues.