Throughout the 1970’s, as the Chicano and Latino student population at Stanford University grew, so did the activities and organizations of this community. The need for a cultural center became apparent, and in May of 1977, the Chicano Cultural Center Committee, composed of faculty, staff, and students, proposed that the University “provide MEChA and its offspring organizations with a facility that would accommodate a Cultural and Activities Center.” The University accepted the proposal and allocated funds to renovate the basement of the Nitery, which already housed the Chicano Fellows Program. The center was named “El Centro Chicano de Estanford” at a community meeting and opened its doors to students in late 1978.
During the early years, part-time student staff provided the administrative support to the center. This was followed by the hiring of half-time Assistant Deans of Students/Directors. In December of 1989, after a decade of student effort to convince the University of the need for full-time professional staff, Dr. Frances Morales started her position as El Centro’s first full-time Director and Assistant Dean of Students. Frances received her Ph.D. in Education from Stanford in 1982.
In the spring of 1993, Chris González-Clarke, Class of 1985, was hired as the first Assistant Director of El Centro Chicano. In 2005 he became the first Associate Director. That same year Chris took a leave of absence to pursue an MA degree in Education. In 2006 he resigned his position to begin his doctoral studies. During 2005-06 Mónica Itzel Henestroza, Class of 2003, served as Interim Assistant Director. In September 2006, Vida Mia Garcia, doctoral candidate at Stanford, was hired as Assistant Director. She returned to her doctoral studies after a year. During 2007-08, Agustin Cervantes, Class of 2006, served as Interim Assistant Director. In September 2008, Marisa Herrera, doctoral candidate at USC, was hired as Assistant Director. In October 2009, Marisa joined the Office of Undergraduate Admission.
Since its establishment, El Centro Chicano y Latino has been an integral part of countless students' Stanford experience. Stanford's Chicano/Latino community reflects the diversity of a population that is rapidly becoming the second largest in the United States. As a center of activity for this community, El Centro Chicano y Latino provides a Home Away from home that fosters student personal success.