Meet the Staff
Director, Latino Cultural Center
Director, Student Advocacy and Education
Carina Olaru (She/Her/Hers) joined Purdue University as the Director of the Latino Cultural Center (LCC) in 2016. Under her leadership, the Latinx student population continues to grow and thrive at Purdue University. In 2017, Carina was responsible for the expansion, renovation, and relocation of the LCC and her vision ensured that the new space was intentionally inclusive and representative of diverse Latinx communities. Her mentorship and support of students, faculty and staff has been the source of the revival of the Latinx Student Union (LSU), the Latinx Graduation Student Association (LGSO) and the Latino Faculty and Staff Association (LaFaSA). In 2020, due to Carina and her team's efforts, the LCC recorded its highest visitation since its opening in 2003 and averages approximately 1,200 visits per month. Olaru established a local and statewide presence for the Latino Cultural Center working closely with Greater Lafayette Immigrant Allies, Indiana Latino Expo, Latino Center for Wellness and Education and the Indiana Latino Institute; and has been an integral part of the planning committee for the Indiana Latino Education Summit and presented at the Indiana Latino Higher Education Consortium. Olaru engages in teaching and learning opportunities and has provided training about Latindad and DACA support for faculty and staff. In 2019, Carina presented her work on Latinidad, student success and advocacy at the Hispanic Association for Colleges & Universities (HACU) national conference. Carina was awarded Educator of the Year by the Indiana Latino Expo in 2019. Carina began serving a two-year term on the Indiana Latino Institute's Latino Legislative Committee in 2020. As of July 2020, Olaru will serve as the Director of Student Advocacy and Education. As the Director of Diversity, Carina advocates for all students and, particularly for undocumented students, protecting their rights and privacy when enrolled in Purdue University, and supports students in their pursuit of academic excellence, promotes leadership development and advises student organizations.
Prior to joining the LCC, Carina Olaru was an assistant professor in the Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures department at Monmouth College, where she taught Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Literature. At Monmouth, she organized Latino College Day and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals workshops, and she served on the Quality Initiative Committee that focused on the retention and college experience of first-generation college students. Carina was instrumental in cultural programming that created opportunities for meaningful dialogue and understanding. She co-founded the community organization Latinos Unidos de Monmouth that organized temporary visitor’s driver’s license workshops, as well as a 5K that raised funds to provide scholarships to local Latino high school students. She also increased the number of students studying abroad as the campus representative for the International Student Exchange Program. Professor Olaru was recognized by her colleagues for her work when presented the Hatch Award for Distinguished Service and by students who honored her as Outstanding Career Mentor and in the annual Honor Walk for graduating students.
Carina received her bachelor's degree in English and Latin American and Latino Studies with a minor in Spanish from DePaul University. She studied in Mérida, México, and, as a McNair Scholar, conducted graduate-level research in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She was the student representative of the Latin American and Latino Studies program, a McNair Scholar and a student employee of the Center for Latino Research where she interviewed writers like Helena María Viramontes. She received her Master's in Hispanic literatures with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During her graduate studies in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she taught a variety of courses, worked as a research assistant, conducted research in Buenos Aires, Argentina, afforded by the Tinker Field Research Grant, and studied in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil as a recipient of the Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship.
Juan Robles (He/Him/His) joined Purdue University as the Program Coordinator of the Latino Cultural Center (LCC) in July 2017. Juan's efforts have been instrumental in reenergizing the Latinx student population at Purdue University. His creative and trend-setting marketing strategies have contributed to the rebranding of the LCC in this new era. Each year, Robles' Purdue Day of Giving campaigns have surpassed the previous year's amount raised. His holistic approach to student success led to the creation of the Sana Sana self-care series which provides tools for students to destress and destigmatizes mental health issues in Latinx communities. Juan works closely with the director to assess and collect data for the programs and services provided to faculty, staff and students each year. In 2019, Juan Robles received the Purdue University Bravo Award for Innovation and Creativity.
Before coming to the LCC, Juan was an outreach coordinator for the Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education at the University of Arkansas, where he worked closely with first-generation low-income and underrepresented students to support their academic success and promote diversity and inclusion. While at the University of Arkansas, Juan organized academic and social programs aimed at developing cultural competence and student development.
He earned his bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Languages from Arkansas State University. While there, he worked diligently to empower Latinx students by establishing networking opportunities, social programs, and academic forums for students, faculty, and staff. Juan also served the Northeast Arkansas community by being an AmeriCorps volunteer, where he volunteered over 900 hours to mentor students, developing educational programs and providing translation services. He received his Master's in Education from the University of Arkansas where he focused on higher education and student affairs. While pursuing his master's degree, Juan was an active member of The Higher Education Organization as well as the Chi Sigma Alpha Honor Society. He is an active member of the American College Personnel Association and the ACPA Latinx Network, and was recognized as the NASPA Rising Star for the state of Arkansas in 2016.
Crystal Muñoz, a Lafayette native, joined Purdue University as the Administrative Assistant of The Latino Cultural Center (LCC) in January 2020. Crystal’s passion for taking care of people started at a young age. While enrolled in High School and working as a waitress, she acquired her State of Indiana Cosmetology License. In 2011, Crystal pursued her love for teaching and working with the public, and sought out to attain her Beauty Culture Instructure License at Christina & Company Education Center, while being employed at Christina & Company of West Lafayette. She met a lot of great people and made lifelong friends during her time there, but due to her family's busy lifestyle, she had to transition out of her cosmetology career to a more family-friendly school schedule. She secured a position at Glen Acres Elementary School, where she held the title of an (ELL) English Language Learner and Title 1 aide. Crystal loved volunteering for events and translating for the Latino community of Glen Acres. During her time at Glen Acres, she built strong relationships with students and staff that will last a lifetime.
Crystal loves volunteering for community fundraising efforts and donating to local charities. While employed at Christina & Company she volunteered her time in a cut-a-thon/bake sale for a fellow employee, who was battling cancer. In 2018, she also helped organize a Chili Super, Hitting Homers for Landyn (home run derby), and sold bracelets to raise funds for her son’s baseball teammate, Landyn Griffith, who was diagnosed with terminal High-Grade Spinal Glioma that had metastasized. Unfortunately, in April of 2018, the battle with cancer was too difficult for Landyn’s little body. Crystal also loves donating to the local Humane Society regularly, and one of the other local dog shelters in the area.
Crystal is married and has two amazing boys which she adores and spends the majority of her free time with. If she isn't watching movies with them, she’s a proud sports mom that cheers her boys on at baseball fields and tennis courts. Crystal is also a huge dog aficionado and owns two Labrador Retrievers, which she loves taking on nature walks around the Lafayette and West Lafayette trails. When Crystal and her family get a little free time from their busy extracurricular lifestyle, she takes pleasure in taking them to Disney World.
Tiffany Montoya (She/Her/Hers) joined the LCC staff in July of 2018. She is a PhD candidate in the Philosophy department; she writes about social and political theory, ethics, and philosophy of race. She serves on the Liberal Arts Diversity Action Committee for Purdue's college of Liberal Arts, and was the Diversity and Inclusion G.A. for the Department of Philosophy.
At Purdue, she has been an organizer for many activist projects both on campus and in the community. She is always willing to assist in causes involving the rights of workers, immigrants, women, LGBTQ communities, and the "Movement for Black Lives".
Tiffany grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There, she received two bachelor's degrees from the University of New Mexico - one in Philosophy and the other in Creative Writing. As a McNair Scholar, she did research in Existentialism and the philosophy of creativity.
She lives with her husband and two dogs. In her free time she enjoys a balance of loudness and quiet. For instance, sometimes she goes to rowdy punk concerts, she enjoys being in crowds of friends, walking in busy cities, and she is learning how to play the drums. But she also has a regular practice of meditation and yoga, and loves spending time in nature.
Oscar I. Ojeda (He/Him/His) joined the Latino Cultural Center (LCC) as a Graduate Assistant in August of 2020. Oscar is a MS student in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics of the College of Engineering. Currently a member of the Grouper laboratory, Oscar's research is focused on human missions to Mars.
Oscar is originally from Bogotá, Colombia, and arrived to Purdue in 2019. In Colombia, he studied Mechanical Engineering at Universidad Nacional de Colombia, where he founded the Aerospace Research and Development Group. At Purdue, he has participated of student organizations such as the Colombian Student Association at Purdue, Purdue MARS, and Purdue Pilots. Before joining the LCC team, Oscar was the Graduate Assistant of the Colombia Purdue Partnership.
Apart from his MS, Oscar is training to get his private pilot licence, and enjoys things such as cooking and playing guitar. Oscar also likes to do STEM outreach activities, mostly in Spanish, and believes on the importance fo increasing access to knowledge in Latin America. He currently holds the position of Regional Coordinator for South America in the Space Generation Advisory Council.
LCC Intern (They/Them/Theirs)
Val Z. Schull (they/them/theirs) is a fifth year PhD candidate in the department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. As part of the Water Resources and Ecohydrological Engineering group, their research focuses on water resource management in a changing climate and using a Food-Energy-Water framework for decision and policy-making. They are also currently the Latino Cultural Center intern, volunteering in projects that involve food security for Latinx students at Purdue, including the LCC's community garden. During their free time, they enjoy lifting weights and learning about sustainability.
Undergraduate Student Employees
Social Media Specialist
Salma Huerta (She/Her/Hers) joined the LCC staff in January 2018. She is a senior in Human Services with a minor in Psychology. Her future goals include getting her Master’s in Social Work and working to better the foster care system to promote child welfare. Her parents currently live in Jalisco, Mexico but her plans are to move to a city with a large Latinx population. At Purdue, she is involved with Delta Phi Mu Sorority, Inc., a Latina based sorority focused on promoting cultural awareness and empowering all womxn. She is also involved in volunteering at LUM homeless shelter, and with the art program at Westminster Village. In her free time, she likes to paint, and spend quality time with friends and family. She loves getting to know people and will definitely send you a personality test, or two. She loves the Latino Cultural Center because it has helped so many people in different ways. She loves seeing the impact it has and watching people thrive because of it. It has truly become a second home to her. Her favorite event is Día de la familia because it brings everyone together to celebrate the LCC.