The UI Latinx Council Executive Board has created the Rachel Garza Carreón IMPACT Award to recognize her valuable work with the Latinx community at the University of Iowa.
The award will recognize long-time UI Latinx community members who have contributed years of service at University of Iowa and who have made a lasting impact with their efforts. The Latinx Council also selected Carreón as the first award recipient.
According to the board, “Chicana-Tejana, Rachel Garza Carreón, a staunch advocate for social justice, does many things in her role as the outreach and research librarian with University of Iowa Libraries to make the UI a more welcoming place. A vital part of that mission is to collect and document the history of the most cherished space on campus for many, the Latino Native American Cultural Center (LNACC).”
Current chair of the UI Latinx Council, Dana Dominguez (Pomerantz Career Center) says long-time staff and faculty such as Carreón play a crucial role in the campus’ Latinx community, which is the reason the council has chosen her as the inaugural recipient and namesake for the newly created award. “Often during council meetings or monthly luncheons, we talk about challenges that comes with trying to coexist and succeed within a place that wasn’t built for us,” says Dominguez. “We lose a lot of Latinx members who move on to other institutions because they don’t feel supported or valued here. When we talk about missing those who have left, I can’t help but feel so much gratitude for those who have stayed.”
Dominguez listed Carreón among leaders in the Latinx community who have made a tremendous impact at Iowa. “There is so much institutional knowledge, experience, and decades upon decades of collective contributions between them, and I can’t help but think of how different the campus would be if they had chosen to leave when times were hard,” she says. “Representation matters. We need our students to be able to see themselves in those leadership positions and believe that they can get there too.”
The council credits Carreón for her work to preserve the history of Latinx people on campus, without which the stories would have been lost. Carreón has spent years collecting and archiving photos, texts, and documents to piece together the 50-year story of those who have called the LNACC ‘home’ during their time at Iowa. She is the co-curator of the UI Main Library Gallery exhibit Building Our Own Community: 50 Years of the Latino Native American Cultural Center, Founded by Chicano and American Indian Students in 1971, which chronicles five decades of activism and placemaking at the LNACC.
“It makes me proud to be a part of it when I hear people say that they stayed here at Iowa because they had the Latinx Council and people like them to be in community with,” Dominguez says. “That’s why we made this award. It’s for people who have made an impact because they chose to stay. Who better to name it after than the one who documents our existence and affirms that we are an important part of the [University of Iowa’s] history?”
The award is unique not only because it is named after Carreón, but also because the council invited her to have full oversight over its development—a role Carreón accepted. Dominguez explains, “We wanted to be sure that this award just doesn’t have her name on it, but that it has her personal touch and approval. We want her to be able to provide feedback on the nomination process, the criteria, even if she wants to pick out what the award looks like, we will let her do it. Just like she has made a mark with her research and her exhibits, we want this to be something she had a hand in, something that lasts forever. It’s the least we can do.”
Upon accepting the award, Carreón said, “To be recognized by my community is an honor. In the years I have worked at the university, I have seen students, staff, and faculty come and go. I’ve seen the community be upset, worried, and angry as they prepare to protest the many injustices we face. I’ve also seen these same community members laugh, dance, and celebrate our successes. It is important that our whole story is chronicled for future community members who come here. I am dedicated to making sure that our story is told.”