"A Legacy of Paying it Forward"

Former Directors Series
Interview with Scott Van Loo (served 2000-2005)

MARKO: Tell us a little bit about your experience paying it forward.

SCOTT VAN LOO:  A legacy of paying it forward is exactly my experience. I had the fortune of attending and participating in The Center as an undergraduate student, then had the unique opportunity to Direct The Center from 2000-2005. I got to “pay it forward” by creating and supporting initiatives to engage students in the same way that I experienced as a student. I am so proud of the students that I had the honor of supporting during my time there at The Center and witnessing all they have done to continue “paying it forward” in their personal and professional lives. As a CCCC community, this is what we do naturally…recognize those that helped and supported us in our own journey so that we become support systems for others who follow us.

MARKO: Can you tell us about your background and where you are from? 

SCOTT VAN LOO: I was born in San Diego, CA and grew up in Greeley, CO. I currently live in Lakewood, CO.

MARKO: Are you an alumnus of UNC and if you are, what did you major/minor in? Do you have other degrees and what institutions are they from?

SCOTT VAN LOO:  I have two degrees from UNC including a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Music Business and an M.A. in Special Education. Post M.A., I took Educational Leadership courses and received a K-12 Principal License through Colorado State University and I am currently working on an Ed.D. through Grand Canyon University.

MARKO: How long did you serve as César Chávez Cultural Center Director?

SCOTT VAN LOO:  I was the Director of the CCCC for about five years from 2000-2005.

MARKO: How would you describe your role and the challenges presented to you there?

SCOTT VAN LOO:  When I came into The Center, there were several challenges. There had been several months without a director due to challenges with the search process, etc. I started in late October/early November of 2000 (I believe) and that was an additional challenge to start in the middle of the Fall semester. I was the first (and only?) non-LatinX Director which also created challenges in how some professors and community members perceived me and my intentions. We had very few student organizations when I joined the center and the couple student organizations that we had did not always get along with each other. My role was multi-faceted and included creating relationships across campus and with student groups. Other examples include: increasing our visibility on campus, increasing our funding, developing new programs and initiatives, in-state and out-of-state recruitment, education, which included providing trainings to staff and faculty, starting the Latino Leadership Conference and expanding the Latina Leadership Conference including the number of student attendees and providing training sessions for the adult sponsors from the schools, expanding the number of LatinX student groups that The Center sponsored and/or supported, including restarting Mecha, attending conferences with students, fighting to keep the CCCC in the house and fighting for equitable funding, expanding the number of students using The Center, creating an endowed scholarship for LatinX students in the Criminal Justice Department, creating the first computer lab in the basement and literally installing the Pergo flooring (that I think is still there!), and much more.

MARKO: What is the grounding value/belief that helped guide your work there?

SCOTT VAN LOO:  When I first accepted the Director position, I found out that César Chávez had been a part of my own family history. My grandparents on my mother’s side immigrated from Lebanon and settled in southern California, 20 minutes north of the border. Our family got it’s “start” by selling fruits, vegetables, meats and goods to the bracero camps in Brawley, CA where my ancestors all settled. All of my Lebanese family learned Spanish and lived as immigrants in the town of Brawley. My Great Uncle Nick was the Mayor of Coachella, CA during the boycotts and met with Chávez several times. When I learned of these origin stories in my family, it inspired me to continue working along-side the LatinX community as an Ally and supporter as my family had for the past two generations. My belief was and still is to uplift individuals and support their growth and leadership.

MARKO: What would you like to share regarding that period of time in your life?

SCOTT VAN LOO:  My time as Director of the CCCC was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. Trish Escobar and her family became family to me. We raised our children there together and to this day, I have never worked with anyone as amazing as Trish. I experienced a great deal of personal and professional growth while director and I am proud of all that we accomplished as a Center. I learned a lot about myself and I made relationships with students, faculty and staff that have continued to this day. Being a Director at the CCCC is one of the proudest moments of my life.

MARKO: What would you like others to know about the César Chávez Cultural Center and its place at UNC?

SCOTT VAN LOO:  I attended the CCCC as an undergraduate student (and prior to the name change) and participated in the folkloric dance group as well as the Organization of Hispanic Students (OHS). I met so many beautiful people there and created some life-long friendships as well as learned about myself as a racial being and learned about my own identity. Having the opportunity seven years after I graduated, to be the Director of the CCCC was beyond my wildest dreams. The Center for me, like so many others, literally changed my life. The CCCC is a transformational space where students, faculty, staff, and community members can come together to learn, grow, achieve, feel supported and succeed. My life and life path would not be the same without the CCCC and I know thousands of students and graduates would say the same thing. The uniqueness and history of the CCCC at UNC needs to continue to be celebrated, supported, and promoted so we can continue to celebrate for another 35 years and beyond.

MARKO: What was your proudest moment/accomplishment/memory of your time there?

SCOTT VAN LOO:  My proudest moment was witnessing our students graduate and celebrate with their families!! and…I am so proud to remain in touch with many of the students from my time there.

Cesar Chavez Cultural Center 35 year anniversary

Celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the César Chávez Cultural Center