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September 3, 2015

Plans underway for Latino/Latina affinity group

Melanie Weiser Krugel

Melanie Weiser Krugel

Is there sufficient interest among faculty and staff to form a Hispanic Latino/Latina employee organization at Pitt?

Staff member Melanie Weiser Krugel has taken it upon herself to find out and has planned a lunch meeting tomorrow, Sept. 4, for anyone who is interested in such a group.

“When I found they didn’t have one here, I was really, really surprised,” said Krugel, who joined the Pitt staff a year ago as assistant director of student recruitment in the Katz Graduate School of Business MBA admissions office.

Krugel, who identifies as Jewish Cubana, had been involved with a similar organization in her previous job at Texas A&M. That group, she said, bridged gaps between faculty and staff and brought the community together through social events and programming scheduled in conjunction with other campus groups.

Krugel connected with Pitt’s Office of Affirmative Action, Diversity and Inclusion, where diversity specialist Warren McCoy encouraged her to reach out to the University community. Krugel said she was “bowled over” by the response to an email she sent in mid-August to gauge whether there was sufficient interest to form and sustain a group.

According to the most recent Pitt Fact Book figures, 235 Pitt employees identify as Hispanic or Latino/Latina.

Krugel’s message, sent via Read Green to Pitt faculty and staff on all campuses, generated more than 280 responses, with the majority of respondents stating they were interested in being active in such a group.

Not all who replied identify as Hispanic or Latino/Latina themselves, Krugel said. Some have married into the community and want to support their spouse or enhance cultural ties for their children. Others are interested in being allies, Krugel said.

Encouraged by the “incredible response,” Krugel has scheduled a lunchtime brainstorming session to make connections and share ideas for the group’s purpose and direction.

She envisions the group as a resource for the campus community: providing a platform for issues facing the Hispanic and Latino/Latina community; organizing professional development and cultural programming; hosting social events; and serving as a home away from home for Hispanic and Latino/Latina faculty and staff. “Somewhere to meet people who are like you — or not like you — and create relationships,” she said.

The lunch meeting is set for 12-1:30 p.m. Sept. 4, in 104 Mervis Hall. (Dessert will be provided; participants may bring their own lunch. RSVP by emailing

The session will include informal introductions “to hear who’s in the room, where they’re from, why they’re interested,” Krugel said. “Then brainstorming on such things as what we’d like to be called; what we’d like to stand for” … and to plan where and when to meet next, she said. She hopes the 50-seat classroom she’s reserved for the initial gathering will be too small to hold the number of people who eventually will be actively involved.

Krugel said she expects to leave the lunch session with action items, including finding volunteers to develop a web page and social media accounts to more broadly promote the group.

“I want the vision to come from the community,” she said. “I don’t want to do everything myself. I want this to belong to the community.”

That doesn’t stop Krugel from dreaming even bigger: She envisions connecting with similar groups at other universities and in the local Hispanic community and sees the potential to someday create a Pitt affinity group for Hispanic and Latino/Latina alumni.

She hopes, too, that others will be motivated to start similar groups here at Pitt. “If we can start this group and get it flourishing, it could inspire other affinity groups.”

Beyond serving as a resource for current employees, “They have huge recruitment and retention value as an amenity to attract and retain new faculty,” she said.

Pitt currently has only one affinity group for faculty and staff, Equipoise, which was formed in 1960 for African-American employees of the University.

McCoy said Krugel is the first individual to approach his office seeking to establish a new affinity group, adding, “We are totally supporting their endeavors.”

McCoy said his office is researching best practices to develop a structure for such affinity groups. “We need more, and there are many other possible groups,” he said, noting that they not only enhance connectedness among employees, but also can be a resource for mentoring and other support.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 1

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