Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, ACC asks inspiring and accomplished faculty and staff about their culture, traditions, and accomplishments. Scroll down for additional profiles.
Visit ACC’s 2022 Hispanic Heritage Month website for a list of events happening throughout the month and a message board to share your thoughts.
Dr. Richard Ray Espinosa
Dr. Richard Ray Espinosa is ACC’s department chair for Allied Health Sciences, Pre-Health Sciences, and Pre-Med. He is also a professor for the Allied Health Sciences Department and adjunct faculty for the Pharmacy Technician Program. He started his teaching career at ACC in the summer of 1994 with a class in Pharmacology.
How do you identify with the Hispanic community?
I am proud of my culture and want to keep it alive here at Austin Community College. Speaking Spanish is one way I connect with the Hispanic community. Being born into a Hispanic family, we had many Mexican-American traditions. In the Latin American culture, most girls turning 15 years old have a quinceanera, or quince, to celebrate their transition from childhood to adulthood. Since my parents did not have any girls, they asked if I wanted to have a “quinceanero,” and I said yes. A quince typically involves a mass followed by a party with a band and dance. I had all of that and a full court of teens with me to celebrate. I still remember my quince like it was yesterday. It was something I am glad I had to identify with the Hispanic community in my small town of Beeville, Texas.
What is your favorite way to celebrate your heritage?
I celebrate my heritage by continuing the family traditions that I grew up with. One of the things that I enjoyed as a kid was the food we ate around the holidays — tamales on Christmas Eve; Pan de Polvo on Christmas for dessert; and buñuelos (crispy cinnamon tortillas), a dozen grapes, and black eye peas for New Year’s. Those are foods I continue to enjoy that bring me back to my roots. Carrying family traditions to the next generation is important. Because my triplet children were in the midst of the pandemic during their 15th birthdays, we decided to celebrate “a quince + 1” the next year for their 16th birthdays. We had Mexican food and mariachis to celebrate with my children, their friends, and family.
What advice would you give to our Hispanic/Latinx students?
While it may be hard at times to get through college, and you may not feel like you belong, keep believing in yourself and know you belong just as much as the person next to you. Look for Hispanic/Latinx role models on campus, including other student leaders, professors, staff members, or counselors who look like you. You’ve got what it takes to be the best product of yourself, and ACC will help you get to that goal.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
My family is one of my biggest inspirations. My parents introduced me to cultural Hispanic traditions and went through a lot to help me achieve my goals. This inspired me to have a family of my own. I hope to come as close as my parents did with helping my kids succeed in life as well. We are all uniquely different, and in a good diverse community, we can respect each others’ viewpoints.
What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement at ACC was when I was recognized by the national Quality Matters (QM) organization for making a difference in students’ achievement. Receiving this award allowed me to know that our students were receiving the best quality online courses and that we were practicing equity, inclusion, accessibility, and diversity. By having all of our online department courses peer-reviewed by a committee to become nationally QM certified, it promotes engagement, retention, satisfaction, and achievement for all of our students.
What do you find fulfilling?
I have had several students over the years come up to me toward the middle of the semester to ask if I am Hispanic. When I tell them I am, they begin to smile and feel able to relate to me better because I know where they came from. Occasionally, I will use my Spanish in the classroom in phrases or one-word comments, and the Hispanic students’ heads perk up, and they begin to feel more connected with me not only as their professor, but on a personal level as well. They want to hear my stories of how I got to where I am today so they can get there, too.
What do you want others to know or understand about your heritage?
Remember where you come from, focus on the strengths that you bring to the table with your heritage, and use that to help get your goals accomplished. Everyone is unique. Use your assets to explore what you are good at, and do not be afraid to share that with your community. Get to know other cultures as well — see how they are similar and how they are different, and respect that we are all one in this big picture in the end.
More interviews coming soon.