SJSU to Host Revisiting the 1968 Chicano Commencement Symposium Oct. 11

In June 1968, Chicano students staged a walkout from then-San José State College commencement exercises to protest the lack of Chicano student enrollment, faculty members and related programs. The legacy of this activism is still felt today at San Jose State University.

To commemorate the events of 1968, SJSU is hosting a symposium on Oct. 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom. The event is free, with lunch and refreshments provided. Tickets are available through Eventbrite. A livestream will be available for those unable to attend.

“Less than 1 percent of the San Jose State College graduating class of 1968 were Chicanos. This mirrored the meager presence of Chicanos on campus, despite a county population in excess of 12 percent,” said Armando Valdez, ’67 Sociology “The walkout brought this glaring disparity into sharp relief and spurred more responsive policies and practices. The symposium examines the legacy of Chicano Commencement, the persistence and impact of institutional changes resulting from the walkout, and also identifies current disparities and shortfalls that demand attention.”

Schedule of Event

9 a.m.

Registration and continental breakfast

10 a.m.


10:15 a.m.

Panel 1

“Legacy, Context and Significance of Chicano Commencement: The Big Picture” 


Armando Valdez, PhD

Armando Valdez, ’67 Sociology, earned a PhD at Stanford University. At San José State, he organized Student Initiative, the first Chicano student organization on campus, and subsequently the Mexican American Student Confederation (MASC), which organized the 1968 Chicano Commencement. Valdez published El Plan de Santa Barbara, and played a leadership role in La Causa Educational Center, the Southwest Network, which supported Chicano alternative schools; Bilingual Broadcasting Productions at KBBF, the nation’s first bilingual public radio station; the Stanford Center for Chicano Research; LatinoNet, the nation’s first Internet platform developed by a community of color; and HealthPoint Communications, a health communications research institute to address health inequities.


Al Camarillo, PhD

Al Camarillo is the past president of the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association-Pacific Coast Branch, and has been a member of Stanford University’s history department since 1975. One of the founding scholars of Mexican American history and Chicano studies, he received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Rockefeller Foundation and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford Humanities Center. The seven-time author’s newest books: The Racial Borderhoods of America: Mexican Americans and the Changing Ethnic/Racial Landscapes of Cities, 1850-2000 (2020, Oxford University Press). He was founding director of CCSRE and the Stanford Center for Chicano Research, and founding executive director of the Inter-University Program in Latino Research.

Juan Gómez-Quiñones, PhD

Juan Gómez-Quiñones is professor of history at UCLA and considered the founder of Chicano history as an academic discipline. He specializes in the fields of political, labor, intellectual and cultural history. Since 1969, Gómez-Quiñones has been active in higher education, culture activities promotion and Chicano studies efforts. He has published more than 30 books or monographs, has served as director of the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA and was a founding co-editor of Aztlan, International Journal of Chicano Studies Research. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, he has served on the California State University and Colleges Board of Trustees, the WASC Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities and as a member of the board of directors of numerous civic organizations.

David Montejano, PhD

David Montejano is a professor in the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously, he was professor of ethnic studies and history, and chair of the Center for Research on Social Change at the University of California, Berkeley. A native of San Antonio, Texas, he received a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University. Among his publications are two prize-winning historical works, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas,1836-1986, and Quixote’s Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement,1966-1981, both published by the University of Texas Press.

Carlos Muñoz, PhD

Carlos Muñoz Jr., the son of working-class refugees of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, became a Chancellor’s Public Scholar, Edward A. Dickson Distinguished Emeritus Professor, professor emeritus of ethnic studies and an affiliated faculty member in the Center for Latin American Studies at UC, Berkeley. The founding chair of California State University, Los Angeles’ Chicano studies department and founding chair of the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies, Muñoz is an expert on ethnic and racial politics, multiculturalism and diversity, immigration, civil and human rights, and affirmative action. An award-winning author, Muñoz co-founded the Institute for Multiracial Justice and Latinos Unidos.

11:30 a.m.



Panel 2 and Lunch

“Impetus of Chicano Commencement 1967-1968: Oral Histories of the Activists”


Rigo Chacon

For 32 years, Rigo Chacon was the South Bay Bureau Chief for KGO T.V., the ABC station in San Francisco. Early in his career, Rigo recognized the importance of an emerging Silicon Valley and made it his mission to establish a bureau in San Jose. When other television stations noticed KGO’s success, more south bay bureaus were established thus making Santa Clara County a major American broadcasting region. Rigo came to San Jose in 1961 as part of a farm working family. At San Jose High School, the future triple Emmy Award winner was junior class and Student Body President before attending San Jose State University where he has served as adjunct professor for future broadcasters. Rigo is the founder of Abrazos and Books, a nonprofit entity that awards scholarships to high school seniors in Santa Clara County. Abrazos and Books also helps children who are victims of natural or man-made catastrophes. Rigo is married and the father of four adult sons, six grandchildren and one great grandchild.


Norma Fierro

Norma Fierro is the child of parents who immigrated to the Santa Clara Valley from Mexico in the 1920s. As a student at San José State, she was vice president of Student Initiative and the Mexican American Student Confederation, later leading a 32-year career as a bilingual educator in K-12 districts with a high population of Chicano students. The coordinator of the Association of Mexican Americans in Alum Rock, she served as the president of the California Association of Bilingual Education’s San José chapter. She dedicated her life’s work to promoting educational equality for English language learners.

Juan C. Garcia, PhD

Juan Castañon García, ’82 MS Clinical Psychology, was a member of San José State’s Student Initiative and the Mexican American Student Confederation. Inspired by his Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) in high school, García was a participant in the 1968 Chicano commencement walkout, and was committed to Bay Area youth activism, recruiting Chicanos to pursue higher education. A licensed marriage and family therapist, he founded Spanish-speaking service provider groups to advocate for mental health access for Latinx communities. A professor emeritus of counseling and rehabilitation at California State University, Fresno, García co-founded the Integral Community Solutions Institute to provide counseling services to San Joaquin Valley’s underserved populations. García is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and Stanford University.

Malaquias Montoya

UC Davis Professor Emeritus Malaquias Montoya is regarded as one of the founders of the social serigraphy movement in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1960s. He has taught at Stanford, UC Berkeley, the California College of the Arts, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Texas, San Antonio. Montoya’s art depicts the resistance and strength of humanity in the face of injustice, and the necessity to unite behind that struggle. He co-founded Taller Arte del Nuevo Amanecer, a rural community-based art center. In 2011, the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center published Voice for the Voiceless, a monograph about Montoya’s work. Montoya’s artwork will be on display during the Symposium.

Connie Moralez

Connie Moralez was admitted to San José State in fall 1967, one of two students selected by Buchser High School as part of a targeted recruitment of Hispanic students. The daughter of farmworkers with grade school educations, Moralez was the first family member to receive a college education, completing her bachelor’s degree in political science at Arizona State University. Inspired by the Chicano movement, Moralez focused on making a positive difference in the lives of struggling individuals, particularly Hispanics. Her professional career has encompassed community service, work within community-based organizations and educational institutions. Moralez developed and implemented a mentorship program for East Side Youth Center, and supported EOP students at Mission College.

Tony Quintero, JD

Tony Quintero, ’68 Sociology, walked out in protest in the 1968 Chicano Commencement. As a law student at UC Berkeley, he founded El Centro Legal de la Raza and served as president of La Raza National Law Students Association. As CEO of American Regional Malls, LLC, and chairman of Plaza Investments, LLC, Quintero acquired and managed malls, and developed a program that benefited the changing demographics of Latino and African-American communities. He served as director of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, vice chairman of the New America Alliance and co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Hispanic Leadership Council. His rich and varied career includes acting in three television series, three feature films, and producing six film projects.

1:15 p.m.


1:30 p.m.

Panel 3

“Gains Achieved/Challenges Ahead: Revitalizing the Mission of Chicano Commencement”


Julia Curry, PhD

Julia Curry is associate professor of Chicano and Chicana Studies at San Jose State. Since 2009, she has worked with the Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association to provide scholarships for undocumented students. She advocated institutionalizing services, support and resources for immigrant students, leading to the development of SJSU’s UndocuSpartan Resource Center in 2018. Curry serves as faculty advisor to Student Advocates for Higher Education, an undocumented student support group, and the Chicano/a/x Graduate Council. She coordinates with the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies to address legal challenges, such as the Supreme Court Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)/Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) case, and organizes symposia covering policies related to in-state tuition and the California Dream Act.


Elma Arredondo, MA

Elma Arredondo, ’79 Psychology, is an analyst programmer at San José State, where she helped develop a student data warehouse service. Arredondo, who minored in Mexican American studies as a student,­ was trained as a programmer at IBM before becoming an information specialist at SJSU, initially working in the Educational Opportunity Program’s data management, information and technical services. She serves on the executive board of the Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association, where she works on the Ernesto Galarza Scholarship committee. An active member of Alum Rock Urban Village Advocates, Arredondo advises the Academics, Leaders, Mentors Aiming for Success (ALMAS) and Chicano Commencement student organizations. Arredondo is involved in her East San Jose community, currently with Alum Rock Urban Village Advocates.

Alfonzo Espinoza, MSW

Alfonzo Castro Espinoza, ’69 Graphic Design, ’73 MSW, was the first Chicano Educational Opportunity Program director appointed by San José State’s President Robert Clark. Espinoza organized EOP to provide services to incoming Chicano students, including tutoring, counseling, financial aid and recruitment. He taught at San José State, UC Santa Cruz and Monterey Peninsula College before becoming a bilingual teacher in the Pajaro Unified School District. Elected president of San José State’s Chicano Student Club, Student Initiative, in 1967, he participated in the first Chicano Commencement in 1968. Espinoza is honored to have served the Chicano community throughout his career in higher education and to have worked with many Chicano students to advocate for social, cultural, political and economic change.

Stella M. Flores, EdD

Stella M. Flores is associate dean for faculty development and diversity and

associate professor of higher education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education

and Human Development at New York University. She also serves as director of access

and equity at the Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy at NYU. Her research examines the effects of state and federal policies on college access and completion outcomes for low-income and underrepresented populations. Flores has published on demographic changes in U.S. and was awarded the 2019 Harvard Graduate School of Education Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education. Recognized as one of the top 200 scholars in Education Week’s RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, her research has been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Reynaldo Macias, PhD

Reynaldo F. Macías is a professor of Chicana/o studies, education and socio-linguistics, and an affiliated faculty member with the African American studies and civic engagement departments at UCLA. The founding chair of UCLA’s César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, he served as the assistant director of the National Institute of Education and was appointed to the advisory board for the National Institute for Literacy by President Clinton in 1996, where he served until 2003. The co-founder of Aztlán—International Journal of Chicano Studies Research and the National Association of Chicano Social Science, Macías specializes in the politics of language policy, language demography and educational socio-linguistics, including literacy, and bilingual and multicultural curricular education.

Refugio I. Rochin, PhD

Refugio I. Rochin is UC Davis professor emeritus Chicana and Chicano studies and agricultural economics. He served on UC Santa Cruz’s Graduate Group for Education at UC Davis and lecturer in Latin America and Latino studies. The first permanent director of the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University, Rochin was also founding director of the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives. A board member of CEMELA and the American Society of Hispanic Economists, he received the inaugural Achievement Award of the American Society of Hispanic Economists in 2008. He is recognized for his path-breaking Latino/a studies scholarship and research on new technology adoption as part of Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug’s “Green Revolution Team.”

2:45 p.m.

Closing and reception