USC Upstate to Launch First University-Based Latino/a Center in SC

Araceli Hernández-Laroche, left, and Maria Francisco Montesó will lead the new South Carolina Centro Latino at USC Upstate.
This fall USC Upstate will roll out the South Carolina Centro Latino (SCCL), the state’s first university-based center for Latino/a students, faculty and staff.

Nicknamed “El Centro,” SCCL will seek to establish USC Upstate as the university of choice for Latino/a students, to increase retention of Latino/a students and to advocate for Latino/a families and communities across South Carolina and beyond.

It will carry out its mission by focusing on three pillars: Latino/a interdisciplinary studies, the public humanities, and translation and community interpreting. Community outreach will also be a key part of El Centro’s work.

“The needs of our Latina and Latino faculty, staff and students is growing each day as we expand and enrich our campus with a more diverse student body and the Upstate region becomes more diverse,” says USC Upstate Provost David Schecter. “The Latino/a population in the state is roughly 6 percent, and that is mirrored in our campus percentage of students, but it is the fastest growing population and one that we believe needs more attention and resources.”

“Considerable work is already being done in the Upstate and on our campus to support the Latino/a community, but we will now place that work under the larger umbrella of El Centro and create an institutional space of belonging, civility, wellness and equity,” Schecter adds.

SCCL leadership

Araceli Hernández-Laroche will serve as director of SCCL. She is an associate professor of modern languages, and the foreign-language coordinator and assistant chair of the Department of Language, Literature and Composition at USC Upstate. The first tenured Mexican-American professor in USC Upstate history, Hernández-Laroche has studied and taught in France, directed an immersion program in Spain, conducted research in Italy and speaks four languages.

Active in the community, Hernández-Laroche serves on the boards of Spartanburg’s Chapman Cultural Center, the Spartanburg Academic Movement and the LGBT Fund of Spartanburg. She was selected to participate in the 2020-2021 cohort of the Emerging Leaders Program through the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).

Maria Francisco Montesó, a senior instructor in Spanish at USC Upstate, will serve as the center’s assistant director. Montesó graduated from Universitat Jaume I in Spain, and earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in translation and interpreting studies in Spanish, Catalan, English and German. She has more than 10 years of experience teaching Spanish, translation and interpreting. Montesó is a Ph.D. candidate. Her research interests center on educational interpreting and pedagogy in translation and interpreting studies.

“As immigrants from Spain and Mexico, respectively, Maria and I are overjoyed and honored to lead El Centro,” Hernández-Laroche said. “This collaborative, community-based, cultural and linguistic approach will increase the visibility of Latino/a and Hispanic talent and contributions in all spheres of higher education and civic life, especially as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted these communities.”

El Centro Mission

SCCL will seek to carry out its mission through a variety of initiatives that include:

  • Organizing Latina/o Interdisciplinary Studies and Talks on Civic Leadership and Mentoring
  • Hosting a “Latinas in Higher Ed Summit”
  • Hosting research forums on local and global impacts of migration
  • Expanding a Global Studies minor and certificate
  • Increasing interdisciplinary and multilingual public humanities scholarship
  • Sponsoring podcasts, interactive lectures and other public-facing work in other languages
  • Expanding the Alicante Study Abroad Program
  • Expanding a Service Learning in Translation and Interpreting Studies Minor

For more information about El Centro, please email