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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Katherine Aliaga

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Alyssa Hurst

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Alyssa Hurst
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Kathy Aliaga

The University of Denver is committed to living our values of diversity and inclusion. We recognize that our community and institutional success is dependent on how well we engage and embrace the rich diversity of our faculty, staff, administrators, students and alumni. With that shared value in mind, throughout this academic year, we plan to publish a series of articles to celebrate cultural and ethnic heritage months. In partnership with Human Resources & Inclusive Community and the Staff of Color Association (SOCA), we will feature a staff or faculty member and a student in recognition of each heritage month, along with an event to honor one another and learn about our unique differences.

Katherine Aliaga’s story is representative of many Americans. Although she was born and raised in Colorado, her parents came to the state from Peru and added their culture to a growing tapestry of diversity.

Today, Aliaga’s Peruvian roots inform her work as director of business and operations for DU’s Department of Facilities Management. She came to the University nearly 20 years ago with the goal of excelling in her role and of pursuing legal studies. In 2015, she received a DU bachelor’s degree in law and society, and now she hopes to pursue an MBA as well.

Aliaga’s heritage and dedication to continued learning have allowed her to make inclusion a key element of her role.

Recently, in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Aliaga told the DU Newsroom about how she honors her Peruvian culture and about her work to make DU a better place for everyone.  

What is something you do to celebrate your background and heritage? What traditions are most important to you?

I am Peruvian, so every year in July we celebrate Peru’s independence and attend a local festival that has traditional food and dance performances. I love being able to show my kids our heritage and traditions.

The tradition that is most important to us is gathering with family. Family is so important to me that we get together for all holidays. Even if there is not a holiday to celebrate, just getting together is as important. 

What is your biggest passion in your role at DU?

My biggest passion is providing an inclusive work environment. I am hoping to achieve this by offering training and education in processes, policies and fundamental functions such as knowing benefits, accessing email, paystubs, etc.

Communication is another key item that I hope to continue to improve by making information accessible to our largest work group in our department. Being bilingual, I have supported our department by translating informational documents and policies to help people feel included and informed. I am working and encouraging other departments on campus to help our staff by translating their information.

Are there any places in Denver/Colorado you would recommend for those interested in learning more about Hispanic culture?

I highly recommend going to festivals for any culture. I think this is the best way to learn about our different cultures and the amazing food.

What has been a strong source of inspiration for you, whether that’s a person, a book, a place, an event, etc.?

My parents have been my strongest source of inspiration. My parents migrated from Peru 39 years ago and worked their hardest to provide for our family. They have always instilled the importance of perseverance and if I work hard, anything is possible.

How far has higher ed/society come in celebrating those with Hispanic heritage? What work still needs to be done?

I think higher ed has made major strides in celebrating our diverse staff. I am very appreciative of this opportunity to be highlighted in the DU Newsroom, and this is a great example of how we should celebrate diversity in the workplace. DU should continue to highlight Individuals who help make DU what it is today.  

 

Join us at noon on Thursday, Sept. 19 on Carnegie Green to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a lunch and learn featuring local dance troupe Fiesta Colorado. They will be performing a piece called "History of the Ballet Folklorico and the Dances of the Americas," and following the performance, there will be an opportunity for attendees to learn some of the dances. Register here.

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