Western Oregon University adds new role to bolster Hispanic Serving Institution initiatives

Photo: Cristian Mendez Garcia

Written by Maureen Brakke

MONMOUTH, Ore. – Western Oregon University recently added a new position of Assistant Director of Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives in its Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to support efforts to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution. After a search, Cristian Mendez Garcia has been selected for this role and officially started on April 22. 

Mendez Garcia’s journey began in the early 1990s when he immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, settling in the Monmouth-Independence community. His educational path led him to Western, where he pursued his passion for art, graduating with a degree in graphic design and fine art photography. As the son of migrant workers, Mendez Garcia deeply appreciates the transformative power of higher education in opening doors to a brighter future. Drawing from his own experiences, he has dedicated his career to advancing opportunities for others. With a wealth of experience in the business sector, Mendez Garcia served as a business operations manager for T-Mobile, honing his skills in strategic planning and project management. In addition, he played a pivotal role as the Chapter Chair for T-Mobile’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts in the Oregon region, demonstrating his commitment to fostering an inclusive workplace culture. His dedication to Western extends beyond the classroom and workplace. Mendez Garcia has served on the WOU Foundation board and most recently held the position of Trustee member on the Western Oregon University Board of Trustees, where he continues to champion initiatives aimed at enhancing the university’s mission and impact.

“I am incredibly thrilled to continue my work with Western Oregon University and am proud of our emerging HSI status,” shares Mendez Garcia. “Higher education is transformative and I love being in a position where I can help WOU achieve its HSI designation to help our students and the institution succeed.”

“I am excited to have Cristian join the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to support our university efforts to become a Hispanic Serving Institution,” says Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dominique Vargas. “Cristian has a broad scope of diversity, equity, and inclusion experience combined with strategic planning, community engagement, and program development. He also has a clear passion for and investment in the Western Oregon University community. We will collaboratively vision our path forward as an emerging Hispanic institution, and work across stakeholder groups to better serve our students and community.” 

This Friday, April 26, Western is hosting its third annual Hispanic Serving Institution Summit, where state and national partners join the university and greater community to share ideas and best practices and discuss why becoming an HSI is critically important to student success and the greater community. This year’s summit will feature two keynote presenters, Patrick L. Valdez, Ph. D., and Marissa Vasquez, Ph. D., who will focus on the history, policy, and current context of Hispanic Serving Institutions, and discuss operationalizing servingness. There will also be a student panel, an afternoon of concurrent sessions, and networking time for attendees.

Learn more about the summit.


About Western Oregon University

Western Oregon University, established in Monmouth in 1856, proudly stands as Oregon’s oldest public university. Hosting around 4,000 students, Western embodies a mid-sized, NCAA Division II institution, with approximately 80% of its students hailing from within the state. Notably, its diverse student body comprises individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, veterans, and non-traditional learners. Western stands as the preferred campus in Oregon for those pursuing an enriching education within a nurturing, student-focused environment, characterized by faculty-led instruction.  Together we succeed.

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