UC Santa Cruz’s Research Center for the Americas to be named in honor of Dolores Huerta

The research center is the first in the UC system to combine perspectives from the fields of Latinx ethnic studies and Latin American area studies

Huerta is the founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and, in 1962, co-founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez. (George Ballis/TopFoto)
Dolores Huerta has played a major role in the American civil rights movement for more than 50 years. (Photo courtesy Dolores Huerta Foundation)

UC Santa Cruz will rename the Research Center for the Americas, which is celebrating 30 years of groundbreaking research, in honor of social justice icon Dolores Huerta, whose legacy has influenced the center’s work and values. The Dolores Huerta Research Center for the Americas — the name will become official next month — has a long history of working to drive positive social change and continues to innovate and build relationships in service of this goal.  

“This renaming is a wonderful opportunity for us to recognize Dolores Huerta’s incredible legacy and to institutionalize it at a moment in time when the political tides seek to diminish leaders like Huerta,” said Chancellor Cynthia Larive. “By permanently enshrining her name at UC Santa Cruz, our faculty, staff, and students, who are the next generation of change-makers, will be inspired by Huerta for years to come.”

Huerta is the founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and, in 1962, co-founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez. Huerta has spent more than 60 years leading community organizing and lobbying efforts to address issues like labor rights, gender discrimination, voter registration, education reform, LGBTQ rights, and economic inequality on behalf of farm workers, immigrants, women, youth, and others in California and the United States. She has received numerous national awards and recognitions for her work, including from the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and the U.S. Department of Labor Hall of Honor. President Bill Clinton honored her with the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, and in 2012, President Barack Obama presented Huerta with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, recognizing her as “one of America’s great labor and civil rights icons” who has “devoted her life to advocating for marginalized communities.”

"Dolores Huerta is a visionary leader and organizer. Whether she's building community, overcoming barriers, or speaking truth to power, Huerta is a true inspiration in every way,” said Sylvanna Falcón, Research Center for the Americas (RCA) director and associate professor of Latin American and Latino Studies. “Renaming a University of California research center that focuses on issues and causes that matter to Dolores Huerta is a way to express our collective gratitude for the sacrifices she has made as an activist."

A groundbreaking research center

Supported by the Division of Social Sciences, the RCA is the first research center in the UC system to combine perspectives from the traditionally disconnected fields of Latinx ethnic studies and Latin American area studies. Over the past three decades, the center has sponsored groundbreaking research on the experiences of Latinx people in the United States and the social, political, economic, and environmental forces shaping Latin America, including migration, human rights, and civic engagement.

Equally important, the center has built a vibrant community around this work through public outreach and hands-on research and mentorship for students, many of whom are from underrepresented groups or are the first in their families to attend college.  

“As a first-generation college graduate of UC Santa Cruz, I am very excited to hear the campus is renaming the Research Center for the Americas in honor of Dolores Huerta,” said Reyna Grande, award-winning author and UCSC alumna. “She is a fearless leader and a trailblazer in the Latinx community.” 

Lalo Alcaraz, an award-winning cartoonist and artist, and a thought leader on Latinx issues, was also enthusiastic about the center’s naming in honor of Huerta.

“Dolores Huerta embodies strength, power, and ethical leadership. She has broken barriers and glass ceilings and inspired millions with her slogan of ‘Sí, se puede,’” said Alcaraz. “UC Santa Cruz being the first to rename a research center in her honor is a groundbreaking idea.”

A shared focus on student empowerment

Students and faculty at the RCA have long been inspired by Huerta’s impact as an organizer, civil rights activist, feminist, and advocate for Latinx communities. Naming the center for Huerta will inspire students and faculty at the RCA and beyond to continue pushing for positive social change around the most pressing issues facing Latinx communities today.

Huerta shares the focus of the RCA and UC Santa Cruz on student empowerment and success. She has a background as an educator, is a former UC Regent, and advocates for educational equity through the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF). Naming the RCA for Huerta recognizes her impact as a pathbreaking leader in all of these areas, reaffirms the center’s commitment to the values she embodies, and dedicates the center’s future work in her honor.

As a campus, UC Santa Cruz is focused on educational equity and providing an unparalleled educational experience that supports students while they’re earning a degree and positions them for success when they graduate. 

A designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, UC Santa Cruz joined other leading universities to form the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities, a coalition of 21 research universities that aims to increase opportunity for those historically underserved by higher education. UC Santa Cruz is one of only six universities that is both a Hispanic-Serving Institution and a member of the Association of American Universities. 

Charting a course for the future

The Dolores Huerta Research Center for the Americas will be expanding its programs in ways that align with and honor Huerta’s legacy. The center is launching a fundraising initiative in support of those efforts, including a crowdfunding campaign with $50,000 in matching funds donated by The Peggy and Jack Baskin Foundation. UCSC is also working with Huerta and the Dolores Huerta Foundation to build a meaningful and lasting partnership. The first proposed collaboration is a multi-year endeavor to continue the initial work already started by Huerta and DHF to establish Huerta’s archives for public access. The renaming of the RCA and UCSC's supportive role in establishing Huerta’s archives will further cement her legacy for generations to come.

A 30th anniversary celebration event for the RCA will be held on October 20 at the Cowell Hay Barn, from 5–10 p.m., and will be livestreamed. Huerta will be presented as the distinguished honoree, and DACA and immigrant-rights advocate Cristina Jiménez will be the keynote speaker.