La Casa Director Lillian Casillas-Origel receives IU Latino Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lillian Casillas-Origel, director of La Casa/the Indiana University Latino Cultural Center at IU Bloomington, is the 2013 recipient of the IU Latino Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award.

The award recognizes outstanding professional achievements and community service of Latino alumni of any IU campus. Casillas-Origel received the award Sat., Oct. 12, at La Casa’s 40th Anniversary banquet at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

La Casa was established in the fall of 1973. A variety of events are planned as part of a yearlong celebration of its anniversary.

"Anybody who ever works in the area of trying to make social change and in advocacy will tell you that you don't often see immediate results," Casillas-Origel said. "I'm not saying that one seeks validation, but it feels good to be recognized and feel we are on the right track with what we hope to accomplish."

"La Casa's success cannot be attributed to any one person," Casillas-Origel added. "It is due to the many people who have come through the door."

Alice Jordan-Miles, president of the IU Latino Alumni Association and an academic advisor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, said Casillas-Origel constantly supports and is determined to help others, just as she once was helped.

"Lilly is a catalyst to change and a catalyst to improving the lives of students," Jordan-Miles said. "In many cases, she was the key reason why a person stayed at IU, stayed on to graduate and went onto post-graduate work as well."

In addition to directing La Casa, Casillas-Origel has served on the advisory board of the IU Latino Studies Program and Indiana Latino Higher Education Council. Within the community, she is a board member of El Centro Comunal Latino, a grass-roots not-for profit organization that focuses on the provision of services to and integration of Latinos to the Bloomington community.

Emigrating from Mexico to the Gary/Hammond region at a young age, she came to Bloomington to attend Indiana University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish in 1989 and a Master of Science in education in 1998.

Casillas-Origel serves as a resource and support for Latino students, faculty and staff at IU and is responsible for programming that contributes to the educational, cultural and social enrichment of both Latino and non-Latino students, faculty and staff.

She works closely with Latino students in the areas of academic progress, integration into the university activities and all other aspects of campus life, so Latino students find a welcoming environment and positive experience while at IU.

Off campus, Casillas-Origel helps provide support and access for Latinos to educational, health, social and other community services while acting as a resource to both Latinos and the agencies that provide these services.