Apr 282003
Authors: Willow Welter

The most significant thing Ernest Chavez has done at CSU, in his opinion, is to help around approximately 15 Latino students graduate.

“I believe education is the great leveler,” Chavez said. “Education opens doors; education gives us opportunities. The people in our country most in need of education are poor people, ethnic minorities and others who don’t have access to that level playing field.”

Chavez, who has served as chair of the Department of Psychology for five years, has taught at CSU since 1976. He earned a doctorate in psychology from Washington State University before moving to Colorado to take advantage of his degree.

There were only 100 Latino clinical psychologists in the entire United States in 1976, Chavez said.

“The numbers have gone up, but we still have a long way to go,” he said.

Although the Latino faculty member concerns himself with issues of ethnic minority students at CSU, he said his main goal at the university is to teach.

“A professor or faculty member’s job is to teach,” he said. “From my perspective, research is part of that teaching; that research pushes the edges of science. You take the new knowledge and you share with other people, in journals, in conferences and mostly in the classroom.”

Isaiah Guerrero, a peer mentor at El Centro Student Services, said having Latino or other ethnic minority instructors at CSU is important.

“The more minority teachers you have, the more the minority student population can look up to them,” Guerrero said. “(Chavez) is a role model who proves to minority students that if he did it, so can they.”

Cindy Conner, Chavez’s assistant, said he is the best boss she has ever worked for.

“We can approach him with anything,” said Conner, who has worked with Chavez for over three years.

Ginger Lacy-Gill, an administrative assistant for the Department of Psychology who has worked with Chavez for nearly two years, described him as understanding, approachable, fun and kind.

On April 17, the College of Natural Resources hosted an open forum where Chavez addressed the state of the department and also described why he wishes to be considered for another term as department chair.

It will probably be around three weeks before the dean of the psychology department announces whether Chavez will keep the chair position for another term or if another candidate will get the position, said Georgeann Venis, program assistant at the College of Natural Resources.

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