As chair of the department of World Cultures and Languages, Rosamel Benavides-Garb, works in more places than just his office. After 25 years of service at HSU Benavides-Garb has seen both change in the university and within himself.
Benavides-Garb maintains a bustling life moving between family life and the university which both hold great meaning to him. Yet, his office stays open for students to walk in and talk.
Carlos Sanchez has taken Benavidez-Garb’s Translation and Interpretation class and has been translating alongside him since 2014.
“People walk into his office because he creates a comfortable space for POC,” said Sanchez.
Benavides-Garb was a senior at the University of Chile when Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the brutal dictator who is notorious for human rights abuse and corruption, was in power. He was unable to receive his degree at the University of Chile and had to leave everything behind to immigrate to the U.S. with his family.
“We left because we felt we were in danger,” said Benavides-Garb.
At the age of 23, the age most HSU students graduate, and with no English speaking experience he and his family arrived in Oregon.
“In the mornings we worked in agriculture and physical labor, and at night we took English classes for adults,” said Benavides-Garb.
After completing his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon he began teaching at HSU as he has always felt it was the right place for him.
“I felt like this university was going to help me in my own development process as a human being,” said Benavides-Garb. “Here I found a quiet retreat place with mentorship from colleagues.”
Over the course of 25 years, Benavides-Garb still finds it challenging being a faculty of color on this campus. When he first arrived on campus he became an advisor for HSU’s M.E.Ch.A chapter.
“It is difficult yet exciting to be a part of the challenge and a part of the solution,” Benavides-Garb said. “The institution from the time I came here 25 years ago, to what it is today, has certainly changed its face from a white majority to becoming more diverse.”
Benavides-Garb sees himself within his students so when the day of graduation comes around every year, he feels a sense of accomplishment along with them.
Along with being an integral member of M.E.Ch.A, Benavides-Garb was also a key founder of El Leñador in 2013. He is also very active in high schools and elementary schools around the county, providing translation and interpretation services. Benavides-Garb’s impact resonates with many who have crossed his path.
“One quote that I wouldn’t forget from him is this,” Sanchez said. “‘If I see something that is done well, I set my own goals to do it even better.’”