Mary Ontiveros, retired Vice President of Diversity at CSU was the final speaker in our RCFC special series, Peace Month/Black History Month.  In her presentation, My Life: Lessons in Change, she shared her personal history and her impact on CSU including development of CSU's  “Principles of Community”, during her 45 year tenure.
Fifty years ago she started at CSU as a student and quickly realized that Ft Collins was a very different place than her native Pueblo, Colorado.  To review the video of last week's program, Click Here.


Ontiveros was raised by a traditional hard-working Latino family.  Her father, although an alcoholic, was hard-working, politically active and directed his daughter throughout her early education. She was reminded that her success and work ethic would not only reflect on her but on “all Latinos”.  Although absent in her public education, at home she learned the proud history of Latinos (for example the advanced civilizations of the Mesoamericans predating the arrival of Columbus). From her mother she got her work ethic and from her siblings she learned that diversity of opinion was ok and there needs to be “different voices at the table”.
As we learned from other speakers this month, minorities (in comparison to Whites) are constrained by a different set of rules and have a different life experience.  Outside the home Mary learned the lessons - that speaking Spanish was “a punishable offense” and that a Latino surname on a work application likely doomed it to the “circular” file.  Mary’s father was a Korean War veteran and chairman of a national Latino veterans group.  Nonetheless, a Latino might not be the “right” person to carry the American flag in a veteran’s parade.  Growing up in Pueblo she learned that local government was often deaf to Latino issues.
Mary sought change and success as a Latina.  Tools to those ends became apparent - pursue social justice, speak up, challenge authority and get a good education.
Mary’s first administrative position at CSU was Assistant Director of Admissions in charge of recruitment of minority students.  She learned from CSU’s early attempt in 1969 (Project GO) and its failure to recognize the limitations imposed on these students because of their backgrounds.
Limitations for minority and first generation students were built into the “system”- computer programs often reflected the needs and backgrounds of white middle class students while failing to accommodate such variables as minority surnames shorter than 3 letters, or inclusion of multiple racial and ethnic backgrounds.  In short, the “system” was not sensitive to the realities of diversity.  Mary’s office changed these (and other) inequities to be fair to all.
Change has occurred - computer input requirements have changed and every CSU college has a staff person with a directive to pursue diversity and inclusion.  Hiring has been restructured.  Today’s students expect diversity.  Pictures on the wall and books in the library reflect change.  All-gender bathrooms have been generally accepted.  A self-awareness survey of employees at CSU monitors progress.  Nonetheless, it is a mistake to assume that Racism is completely absent at CSU.
Best of all, Mary’s office provided leadership in the development of the “Principles of Community.” This has been reviewed, accepted and widely distributed.  The document recognizes certain values - inclusion, integrity, respect, service and social justice.

CSU is surely a better place for all students, faculty and staff thanks to 45 years of hard work by Mary Ontiveros.