Category Archives: Education

Hablando de ellas: Experiences of Latina K-12 Public School Administrators with Race and Gender

sign says "Our country's future economy depends on our children's education now"

Our Future. Photo by Flickr User Andy Blackledge. Feb 15, 2015. CC BY-NC 2.0

By Dr. Lisandra Tayloe 

Latinas are relatively scarce in leadership positions in K-12 public schools.  Nonetheless, as my recently concluded dissertation study (2016) indicated, fractional representation does not equal nonexistence but, rather, exclusion and neglect. In my study, I examined barriers to career advancement, the effects of barriers, successful strategies to overcome challenges, and the roles of race and gender on leadership ascension and practice from the perspective of K-12 Latina public school administrators.

Utilizing a mixed methods approach that included 30 survey responses and 4 interviews with two public school principals and two assistant principals in the state of Florida, I gathered information from Latina administrators of varied ethnicities, including Puerto Rican, Guatemalan, and Venezuelan. Their ages and leadership experiences varied too, ranging from 29-62 years of age and 1-26 years of educational leadership experience. Continue reading

On the Colonial Legacy of U.S. Universities and the Transcendence of Your Resistance

By Prof. Oriel María Siu

Oriel María Siu is Assistant Professor and the founding Director of Latino Studies at the University of Puget Sound.

Oriel María Siu is Assistant Professor and the founding Director of Latino Studies at the University of Puget Sound.

(This is a copy of the Keynote speech I gave at the University of Puget Sound’s Graduates of Color Ceremony in May 2015. I dedicate it to all students of color at this and any other institution of higher learning in the U.S.)

As people of color, you were never meant to be at a university. I was never meant to teach at one. And your family and I were never meant to be here celebrating your graduation today.

The establishment of universities you see, were a direct result of the European colonization of the Americas and later white settler expansion all over the globe, a process begun in 1492. From the beginning, universities served as a crucial tool for the introduction and retention of a white Eurocentered power structure in these occupied territories. In the Americas, universities were created and run by British and Spanish settlers and later by their descendants for the purpose of founding and retaining the colonial order of things. The founding years of the first universities in this continent should therefore be no surprise; they directly paralleled the English and Spanish processes of colonization north, center, and south: the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (1538), Universidad de San Marcos of Perú (1551), Real y Pontificia Universidad de México, today the UNAM (1551), and Harvard University (1636), to name but a few.

Through savage processes of forced displacement, genocide, racialization, and the enslavement of Natives and Africans, whites self-proclaimed themselves superior to other people upon entering the Americas. From 1492 to 1592 –or the first 100 years of the occupation alone– it has been estimated that Europeans decimated more than 90 million indigenous people in the Americas, making it the bloodiest holocaust in the history of human kind (other estimates place this number above the 100 million people mark). Aside from this genocide, more than 11 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, with death rates so high during that atrocious Middle Passage that many lives were lost at sea. Engendered by a system of slavery and the decimation and removal of Native life, the colonial order of things in the Americas consisted of the formation of a particular economic system; one which controlled, confiscated and reserved productive Native lands for the use of the white settler; one which ensured the flow of exploitable, cheap and free labor for the occupiers’ benefit; and one which ensured little to no upward mobility for the colonized. Universities, as I was saying, were crucial to the retention and functioning of this colonial order.

As spaces for the creation and retention of systems of thought, universities contributed to the eradication of indigenous educational institutions and to the displacement, invalidation, destruction, and subalternization of indigenous and African ways of knowing. In the minds of missionaries and “men of letters” –as scholars were called back then–, indigenous knowledges were dictates of the devil and thus had to be disciplined, punished and eliminated. These knowledges and epistemologies neither corresponded to the history of the so-called West the colonizers imposed here in the Americas nor were they recognized as valid or beneficial to the colonial system. Native knowledges did not support racial, class nor gender hierarchies –all organizing principles of colonial America. As Duwamish Chief Seattle said to the settlers that later appropriated his name and this land in the Northwest, Native ways did not see land as belonging to people as the white man understood it, but rather that people belonged to the land. As sites for the development and preservation of ideology, universities thus became the mechanism through which these indigenous knowledges were made inferior and obsolete by the white colonial settlers, replaced instead with Eurocentric lenses of the world. These new lenses were channeled through the academic disciplines that universities engendered –Math, Sciences, Humanities and Philosophy– disciplines all designed to rationalize the Eurocentric white power structure in place still to this day.

From Types of Mankind (1854) by J.C. Nott, and Geo. R. Gliddon. In arguing for the superiority of whites, scientists claimed that the world’s “races” had different “origins” and were therefore different “species”. Photo by APS Museum. CC BY-NC 2.0

From Types of Mankind (1854) by J.C. Nott, and Geo. R. Gliddon. In arguing for the superiority of whites, scientists claimed that the world’s “races” had different “origins” and were therefore different “species”. Photo by APS Museum. CC BY-NC 2.0

Universities were essential to the development of scientific racism. For more than two centuries, from the 1500s to the 1800s, colleges and universities throughout the United States and the Americas supported research and implemented curricula that argued for the enslavement of black people, the superiority of the white man, and the inferiority of Natives and their ways of knowing. Scholars such as Josiah Clark Nott, Robert Knox, George Robins Gliddon, and Samuel George Morton among many others lived to prove that the racial inferiority of people of African, Pacific Islander, Asian, Caribbean, and Indigenous descent, justified conquering them, enslaving them, exterminating them, exploiting them, segregating them, and/or occupying their land. Be this within the newly created U.S. borders, or south of the U.S. borders, or in Africa, or in Asia, or the Pacific Islands, all regions colonized by Europe and/or the U.S. during the 17th, 18th, 19th 20th, and 21st centuries. In arguing white superiority, these scholars measured the skulls of diverse populations, put forth theories of polygenism supporting the classification of human populations as distinct races stemming from different origins, and spoke of the “primitive psychological organization” of slaves. Their research and the value given to it by way of the university institution made it possible to create the logic for the colonization and occupation of vast territories and peoples during the forming years of European and US imperialism world-wide.

Universities both in the North and South of the United States participated in the economy of slavery. As scholar Craig Steven Wilder’s work most recently demonstrates (Ebony and Ivey, 2013), in the South many colleges owned and used enslaved blacks to build and maintain university campuses. Fully at the disposal of the universities that owned them, campus slaves were forced to commit their labor to the campus which held them. They served the students, the faculty, and the administrators. Slaves took care of administrators’ and faculties’ children, rang campus bells, prepared meals, cleaned students’ shoes, made beds, obtained the wood for fires, and tended farmland owned by administrators and universities. In some instances, students, administrators and faculty even paid special fees to their respective university to be able to bring their personal slaves to campus. Yale, Columbia, Harvard, Brown, and Princeton among many other prestigious universities of the North, were no. These institutions suitably accepted into their student body the sons of wealthy slave-owners, including sons of wealthy slave-holder elites from the Caribbean (Wilder)[i]. Both directly and indirectly, universities all throughout the nation supported the economy of slavery, benefited from it, and played a crucial role in retaining the racist and racial order of things in the newly created white settler nation.

Engraving from 1827, University of Virginia. Female slave carrying baby. Zoomed in image of Rotunda and Lawn, B. Tanner engraving from Boye’s Map of Virginia from the University of Virginia Library Materials.

The sons of plantation owners who studied in Europe were seen as experts on Natives and enslaved Blacks because of their close contact with them (Wilder)[ii]. Insisting on the economic benefits of slavery while also furthering the case for U.S. genocidal politics at home, these slave-owners’ sons wrote entire dissertations and gave lectures on the physical and intellectual inferiority of these groups (Wilder)[iii]. Their work’s objective was to dehumanize their subjects or rather objects of study. Their lectures not only helped validate and explain the system of racist economic, social, and political rule in place in the U.S., it also argued for its perpetuation.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Blacks and other people of color in the U.S. as well as Jews and non-Protestant Christians were still not admitted into universities. Black colleges and universities were created for this very particular reason in the 1800s. Throughout the U.S. students of color were not legally allowed into higher education until the second half of the 20th century. That is approximately 50 years ago.

The very university from which you graduate today was founded in 1888, just a few years into the occupation of the Puget Sound area by its white settlers. Even though the area began to be “visited” by English “explorers” in the late 1700s, permanent European settlement was achieved in this region in 1852 when a Swedish man by the name of Nicholas De Lin discovered there was lots of money to be made by exploiting the area’s lumber. The Nisqually and Puyallup regional tribes fought back and in 1855 the settlers were forced to flee, being able to return only after Native populations of the area were put in a nearby reservation by the U.S. government, leaving the Puget Sound area free for its exploitation by the returning settlers. Founded in 1888, our university is directly and indirectly a product of this occupation.

But just as these academic institutions have historically wanted to make you and your bodies of color invisible, there is also a long history of struggle for visibility, inclusion and the right to existence that precedes you; one that also dates back to more than 500 years ago; from Native and slave rebellions, to organized walk-outs, hunger strikes, sit-ins, street protests, to people writing our own excluded histories and creating spaces within academia so that you and I could learn about our own histories and struggles as well as recuperate lost ancestral knowledges. Many students and educators before you even paid with their lives for you to be able to be here today; for you and I to be here today and to celebrate you. During the 1960s young women and men fought the police, racist administrations, went to jail and sacrificed spending time with their own families to create the possibility for you to be able to get the very degree that will soon be in your hands. Your immediate communities and families have also sacrificed a great deal and gone through many difficult moments in life in order to make this day a reality for you. I sincerely congratulate them on this day, only your parents know all the struggles they have endured to make this day possible for you.

During your time at the University of Puget Sound all of you graduates have pushed and struggled and studied late nights and long days to arrive here and you made it to graduation. But always remember that you are exceptions. Despite us now having an educational system that is color-blind in theory, Blacks, Latinos, and Natives specifically, continue to be under-represented among those making it to college and graduating with bachelor degrees. In high schools, Latino and African American students nationally are disproportionately represented at every stage of the school-to-prison pipeline and only 53% of Native students graduate from high school [iv]. In today’s corporatized university system moreover, students of color are shouldering the most student debt, disproportionately higher numbers having to drop out of college because of the economic burden that academia now represents. You graduating from here today is that much more symbolic because of all of this.

But I want you to know you have a long road ahead of you. Twenty years ago a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree held a lot of weight; it was an accomplishment. Today it is still an accomplishment but it does not carry the weight that it once did. So therefore I urge you to go further; I urge you to go get your Masters and your PhDs, to continue your education in one form or another. And I challenge you once you’re out of these spaces to create opportunities for those in your communities of origin. Too many in our communities who make it to far places too easily forget their origins; choosing to distance themselves from their communities and their own community’s history of struggle and survival. I urge you to not be one of them.

I wanted also to tell you you’re definitely not graduating from this institution with just a Bachelor’s degree. By now you all have a PhD in surviving and knowing these dominant white spaces of power that you will continue to navigate after graduation; these are places that will continuously try to shape and mold you and your spirit; dictate who you should be; what you should think; where you should go in life. The University of Puget Sound, while not always the most welcoming space for students and people of color, does in my mind do something beautiful. It challenges you and in doing so prepares you for what is to come ahead. Consciously or unconsciously you’ve met this challenge. While here, the dissident, non-conformist, rebel in you learned how to create what bell hooks would call our own communities of resistance to spaces that in subtle and not so subtle ways too often told you: “you don’t belong here”. That resistance may have looked different for every one of you. For some of you it looked like student activism on social justice related issues, building solidarities between students of color, while for others it may have been selecting particular friendships; or choosing your mentors or simply knowing when to seek spaces away from whiteness. While here, consciously or unconsciously you managed to create for yourself communities that helped you find your way through the daily micro and macro aggressions, the assumptions, the presumptions, the comments inside and outside the classroom, the burden of having to explain yourselves and your experiences –all the time–, the loneliness, the alienation, and yes, the depression. While here, the dissident, non-conformist, rebel in you pushed you to create communities that allowed you your voice whenever you needed to speak, yell and cry; to create communities that also allowed for your silence whenever you didn’t feel like speaking, yelling or crying. While at Puget Sound, the dissident, non-conformist survivor of 500 years of colonization in you also learned to question that which you have been taught in the classroom; that which you read in color-blind texts presenting themselves as universal knowledge.

So you leave here knowing when to separate useful knowledge from that which will not serve you, but further estrange you and worse, assimilate you into what the dominant culture wants of you, thinks of you, and desires of you. There is therefore very little I could advise you today in this art of survival you all know very well and have PhDs in by now. The art is actually now more than 500 years old, passed on to us by our ancestors, our parents, and the collectivity of our resisting spirits.

What advice I can offer however is to not ever let the resister and creator in you be silenced; if you spoke too soft here, amplify that voice; if you found your voice here, solidify and strengthen it. If you feel you are still in the search of your voice, be compassionate and honest with yourself, your interests, and your passions. Dream big and in following those dreams be as persistent as you can be and do not give up or let others take you in different directions.

Be creative. The world that awaits you out there is at times too ugly, too vicious; too inhuman. It is a world replete with racism, fear of your bodies, a world continuously in crisis and at war; a world submerged in a neoliberal economy that thrives on the imprisonment of bodies of color, war, forced migrations, the continued destruction of our mother earth, and the commodification of absolutely everything including love. This is a world that too often will seem to leave little to no air to breathe. So please go out and create your own breathing spaces. Continue in the creation of resisting, loving communities because you didn’t and don’t ever get anywhere on your own. As our Native sisters and brothers will always remind us, we are all connected to communities that transcend time. We’re connected to the first ancestors who walked the earth; to their struggles and their deeds. But we’re also connected to those who are not yet here, those generations who will be born tomorrow and thereafter; those who will walk this earth in the future long after we’re gone. Our job in the middle is to bridge the gap, take on the inheritance from our ancestors and our past, add our own deeds, our struggles, and leave this a better place for those that will follow. The responsibility, to say the least, is tremendous.

So make yourself and your communities visible. Resist becoming invisible; and resist becoming that which others and dominant spaces want you to become; resist it with all of your passion, your love and your humanity. Stay connected and grateful to those who’ve helped you and loved you along the way and those who will continue to be there for you. And give back.

Above all, don’t ever forget we were never meant to be here celebrating you today. Love you all.

Notes

[i] Information based on Craig Steven Wilder’s excellent book on the subject of universities and slavery, Ebony and Ivey (2013). I highly recommend this read.

[ii] From Wilder’s book Ebony and Ivey (2013).

[iii] From Wilder’s book Ebony and Ivey (2013).

[iv] “Tolerance in Schools for Latino Students: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline”

From The Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, May 1 2015.

Oriel María Siu is Assistant Professor and the founding Director of Latino Studies at the University of Puget Sound. She earned her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles; her Masters from the University of California, Berkeley; and her BA degrees in Chicana/o Studies and Latin American Literatures from California State University, Northridge where as an undergraduate she was involved in the establishment of the first Central American Studies Program in the nation. Her research and teaching interests include contemporary Central American cultural productions from the diaspora, de-colonial border thinking, Latina/o cultural productions and diasporas, and narratives of race and racisms in the US. She has published several articles on these topics and is currently working on her book on novels from the Central American diaspora. Siu is also a mother and a dancer. She is from San Pedro Sula, Honduras and lives in Seattle, Washington.

Unveiling the Secret to Tenure Expectations

picture of Tanya Golash-Boza

Professor Tanya Golash-Boza

Tanya Golash-Boza (2015 Mujeres Talk Contributing Blogger)

Imagine this: Your first year on the tenure-track, you sit down with your department chair and ask him what the expectations for tenure are. He hands you a written document that indicates that you have to publish six articles, and that you must be first author on at least four. He provides you with a list of acceptable journals and makes it clear that this is the hurdle you have to cross for tenure. You meet with other senior colleagues in your department and across the university, and everyone agrees on the research component of the tenure expectations. You know exactly what you need to do and the only thing left to figure out is how to do it.

This situation, for better or for worse, is remarkably uncommon. Most new faculty members are never told exactly what they need for tenure. Senior colleagues are reluctant to give an exact number of how many articles you need to publish, whether you need articles in addition to a book, which journals are considered important, whether or not you need a major grant, and whether or not book reviews, conference presentations, and book chapters in edited volumes count for anything. Your senior colleagues are most likely to tell you that the tenure expectations are individualized and that a wide variety of portfolios can make an excellent tenure case. They will likely tell you that they are looking for a research profile that demonstrates excellence and an upward trajectory.

As a new faculty member at a research institution, I found this very frustrating. I thought to myself: why can’t they just tell me what I need to do so that I can do it? If you are in this sort of situation, where you are not clear on what the expectations are, one thing is certain: it is in your interest to find out anyway. How do you do that?

It turns out that there are a number of ways for you to figure out what a solid tenure case would look like. You just need to approach this as you would any other research project: ask around, investigate, and look at a variety of cases. Here are four strategies for you to figure out what your research portfolio should look like.

A pen resting on top of an open journal with writing faintly apparent.

On the importance of asking for clarity regarding tenure expectations. Photo by Sebastien Wiertz. CC BY 2.0

  • Ask around at your institution. In your first semester, you should meet with your department chair and with your faculty mentor. Ask both of them to give you advice on what the publication expectations are. They might be vague, but they will communicate something to you. You also can ask other colleagues around the institution, especially if you can find people who have served on the campus Promotion and Tenure committees.
  • Look at the CVs of people recently promoted in your department. If there is anyone who has been promoted in the past five years in your department, you should look at their CV and figure out what they needed to get tenure. Tenure expectations are a moving target, so the more recent candidates are a better comparison case than your older colleagues. You may even be able to ask recently tenured colleagues to share their tenure materials with you so that you can see exactly how they put their case together.
  • Look at the CVs of people recently promoted at other comparable institutions. Most departments post their faculty members’ CVs online. And, since promotion and tenure require updating the CV, most recently tenured faculty have updated CVs online. Look at several CVs of people who were recently tenured in your field and figure out what they had that allowed them to make a compelling tenure case. If no one has been tenured recently in your own department, this strategy can be particularly helpful.
  • Develop your own expectations, and share them with a trusted mentor. After you have compiled all of this information, use it to make explicit expectations for yourself. Suppose, after this research, you determine that you would need a book published at a university press, two single-authored articles in top tier peer-reviewed journals, one co-authored peer-reviewed articles, and at least six conference presentations. Take this information back to your department chair and your mentor and ask them if that would make a reasonable tenure case in your department. Tell them that you have set these goals for yourself, and that you would like their feedback on your goals. Their responses should be enlightening.

This last step is very important. Senior faculty are often reluctant to tell you exactly what you need because they don’t want to be wrong, but also because they do not want you to limit your options. If, however, you decide for yourself what your goals are and make it clear that you want their feedback, they likely will be willing to provide it.

The quest for tenure can be stressful, and the lack of clear expectations makes it more so. Figuring out what the expectations are yourself can be one step towards achieving clarity for yourself, and, in the process, to relieving some of the stress.

Tanya Golash-Boza is a Mujeres Talk 2015 Contributing Blogger. Her academic blog site, Get a Life, PhD, has been online since 2010 and offers “how to” advice for college professors on topics such as how to write a book proposal, revise an academic article, or organize work time in a semester. Dr. Tanya Golash-Boza also leads two other academic blog sites, Social Scientists for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Are We There Yet? World Travels with Three Kids. An Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California Merced, Golash-Boza is the author of four books: Due Process Denied (2012), Immigration Nation (2012), Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in Peru (2011), and Race and Racisms: A Critical Approach (2014). She has also written for Al Jazeera, The Nation, and Counterpunch. She has  a new book out in December: Deported: Immigrant Policing, Disposable Labor and Global Capitalism.

The Program in Latina/o Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Professor Rochelle Gutiérrez at UNC Chapel Hill October 2011 - Talk entitled, "Desarrollando Nepantler@s: Rethinking the Knowledge Needed to Teach Mathematics."

Professor Rochelle Gutiérrez at UNC Chapel Hill October 2011 – Talk entitled, “Desarrollando Nepantler@s: Rethinking the Knowledge Needed to Teach Mathematics.”

Featured as part of Mujeres Talk “Building Latina/o Studies In the 21st Century” Series. For more information please contact us at mujerestalk@gmail.com

by Dr. María DeGuzmán

“What is the state of your Latina/o Studies program and what are best practices for nurturing Latina/o Studies in your institution?” These are the essential questions that inform this account of Latina/o Studies at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, the first program of its kind in North Carolina and in the Southeast. The second Latina/o Studies program to be founded shortly after the one at UNC Chapel Hill was Duke’s and the third one, Vanderbilt’s. When it comes to “best practices,” the local institutional context is key, and, yet, there are general principles to be extracted from the local context despite the idiosyncrasies of that context. When I began my tenure-track job at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1999, Latina/o Studies per se did not exist at UNC or at any other institution of higher learning in North Carolina. Our program defines Latina/o Studies on our website as the transdisciplinary study of ethno-racially and linguistically diverse Latinas/os both in the U.S. and as they move between rest of the Americas or transnational spaces. Our definition includes those of Iberian heritage living and working in the U.S. alongside those of Latin American heritage and Mexicans who were made citizens of the U.S. in the 19th century and Puerto Ricans in 1900. We see the relationship between Latina/o Studies and Latin American Studies in this way:

[While focusing on the United States,] Latina/o Studies is not confined within those borders either to the extent that its subjects of study (and the very creators of the field itself) are in motion and in flux, coming and going, continually crossing borders and boundaries. In this respect, it does share some of the transnational and transcultural scope, momentum, and issues of Latin American Studies but with its own foci, its own perspectives, that owe a great deal to Ethnic Studies and the knowledge produced in and through various intersecting civil rights movements. Latina/o Studies does not duplicate the work of Latin American Studies; it draws on it and complements it. Ideally, this scholarly relation works in reverse, too. Check out more information about the relation of Latin American and Latina/o Studies in the era of transnationalism and globalization in Critical Latin American and Latino Studies, edited by Juan Poblete. http://lsp.unc.edu/

What did exist at UNC Chapel Hill were a number of scholars working in Latin American Studies in a variety of departments—African, African American, and Diaspora Studies, Anthropology, Geography, Romance Languages, and so forth. Some of these scholars were concentrating on questions of immigration to the United States that extended to the experiences of immigrants once in U.S. territory. There were also colleagues in other departments (including my own, then the Department of English and now the Department of English & Comparative Literature) who were cognizant of the importance of responding to the exponential population growth of “Hispanics” in the United States and particularly in North Carolina. As I explained in an article titled “Emerging Geographies of a Latina/o Studies Program” (about the program at UNC Chapel Hill) published in Southeastern Geographer (Vol. 51, No. 2, Summer 2011):

According to U.S. Census and American Community data provided by Odem and Lacy (2009) from 1990 to 2006 North Carolina experienced a 678.4 percent increase in its “Hispanic” population—from 76,745 people to 597,382 or more than half a million people (xii). To fully take into account the “undocumented” one would have to increase those figures considerably—a calculation that might bring the North Carolina Latina/o population to over a million people or approximately one in eight people in North Carolina ten years into the 21st century. As the flagship campus of the University of North Carolina system, UNC – Chapel Hill had and continues to have both an intellectual and an ethical obligation to acknowledge and respond to the changing demographics of North Carolina and the Southeast more generally which, as a whole, according to Odem and Lacy (2009, p. xii), has amounted to at least a 345.1 percent increase of the “Hispanic” population between 1990 and 2006.  [DeGuzmán, Southeastern Geographer, p. 308]

Certainly, one of the strongest rationales for establishing the Program in Latina/o Studies at UNC Chapel Hill was:

the exponential and myriad growth since the 1980s of Latina/o populations in the Southeast and North Carolina not only from Mexico, but also from Central America, and, of course, from other parts of the United States (such as California) as well as from places in South America such as Argentina, Colombia, and Ecuador, to name a few. [DeGuzmán, Southeastern Geographer, p. 308]

How was the UNC Latina/o Studies Program actually created given the local institutional context I have described briefly? The Program grew out of a speakers’ series that I requested as part of my job package. I did not want to be the isolated scholar teaching Latina/o Studies to undergraduates and a small handful of graduate students each semester. So, I requested seed money to begin what I named the UNC Latina/o Cultures Speakers Series. The money was granted and my first speaker arrived to campus fall 1999. Since that fall the UNC Latina/o Cultures Speakers Series has hosted over fifty-eight people contributing to Latina/o Studies and/or culture—novelists, poets, playwrights, performance artists, visual artists, and/or academics. In terms of Latina/o Studies, the speakers series has explored a wide range of topics and has helped to diversify people’s understanding of what Latina/o Studies is and how it is related to, is composed of, and informs American Studies; Indigenous Studies; African, African American, and Diaspora Studies; Asian American Studies; Caribbean Studies; Central American Studies; Southern Studies; Feminist and LGBTQ Studies; Jewish Studies; Media Studies; research and teaching in education; law; healthcare; government; journalism; public policy; and so many other areas. The events of the UNC Latina/o Cultures Speakers Series drew people from all over campus and beyond who were interested in Latina/o studies and affairs. By keeping track of attendance at the UNC Latina/o Cultures Speakers Series I learned who on campus was invested in fomenting Latina/o Studies.

It was through the Latina/o Cultures Speakers Series that a core group of people became aware of how their scholarship and their interests could be brought together under the rubric of “Latina/o Studies” with a specific focus on what was happening within U.S. geographical boundaries. I asked professors from this group of people who regularly attended the speakers’ series events if they would like to propose Latina/o Studies courses or could adjust the courses they were teaching to dedicate at least fifty percent of their course material to the experiences and cultural productions of Hispanics living within the geographical boundaries of the United States. A sufficient number of professors were willing to either create new courses or transform already existing courses so that we were able to propose an undergraduate minor in Latina/o Studies, a minor that was approved March 2004 and inaugurated September 20, 2004 with the visit of Professor Frances Aparicio. With this inauguration the Minor & the UNC Latina/o Studies Speakers Series became the Program in Latina/o Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. Since fall 2004 other speakers series have been introduced under the aegis of the Program: The Teatro Latina/o Speakers Series as well as speakers series associated with a variety of working groups on Latina/os & Health, Latina/os & Education, Literature of the Americas, and Jewish Latina/o Cultural Production. Thus, a little more then ten years later, at least two and sometimes three speakers series and several working groups operate as part of our Latina/o Studies Program. We have a core group of faculty who are passionate about examining Latina/o historical and contemporary presence in the United States; the experiences of Latina/os in the U.S. educational system; the health and educational consequences of Latina/o migration (particularly to the U.S. South) and Latina/o migration as it shapes and is shaped by public policy; the cultural productions of Caribbean Latina/o writers and visual artists; Latina/o music, theater, and performance art; the relation of Latina/o literature to other kinds of media—photography, film, journalism; Afro-Latina/o histories and cultures; and Jewish Latina/o cultural production among other areas of research, pedagogy, and programming.

Since its inception (including the establishment of the first speakers series that is still continuing) the Program in Latina/o Studies has been housed in the UNC Chapel Hill Department of English & Comparative Literature (formerly the Department of English). At UNC Chapel Hill a minor has to be housed in one particular department even if it is transdisciplinary, which ours is, as Latina/o studies programs generally are. Our Latina/o Studies Program offers courses drawn from over ten different departments, among them Anthropology; African, African American, and Diaspora Studies; Dramatic Arts; English & Comparative Literature; Geography; History; Music; Public Policy; Religious Studies; Romance Languages; and the School of Journalism & Mass Communication. As founding director of the Program in Latina/o Studies I made the decision, in consultation with other faculty, to house the minor and the overall program in the Department of English & Comparative Literature because I wanted these studies to be considered an integral part of the study of U.S. culture and of literature written in English though not necessarily, of course, confined to English. The fact that the Department of English became the Department of English & Comparative Literature has strengthened the logic of domiciling Latina/o Studies in this department, as Latina/o Studies is, by definition, fundamentally comparative. The comparative nature of Latina/o Studies pervades all aspects and angles of its investigations—from the study of race and ethnicity, to national origin, to class, to geography, to historical contexts, to politics, to philosophy, aesthetics, and spirituality, to bilingualism and, furthermore, multilingualism as scholars must take into account not only Spanish and English but many variations on their combination in addition to indigenous languages as well as, potentially, other Romance Languages such as Portuguese and French.

The UNC Program in Latina/o Studies that grew out of the UNC Latina/o Cultures Speakers Series has been in existence since 2004. Over the course of eleven years it has expanded in terms of its programming, the number of faculty involved, and the number and range of courses offered. At the department level it is both an undergraduate and a graduate program, but at the College of Arts & Sciences level it is still an undergraduate program. Graduate students can take whatever graduate level Latina/o Studies courses are offered. Graduate students from the Department of English & Comparative Literature can declare Latina/o Studies as one of their fields. However, we still do not have a College of Arts & Sciences-wide graduate program in Latina/o Studies. The establishment of such a program is one of our goals. Another related goal is to foment a Southeastern Consortium of Latina/o Studies. The Program in Latina/o Studies at UNC – Chapel Hill has already been collaborating on programming and course credit with Duke University’s Program in Latino/a Studies in the Global South. A larger Southeastern consortium in Latina/o Studies would have the potential to open regular channels of communication among the various Latina/o Studies programs in the region and to create a synergistic constellation of scholarly production, creative endeavor, professional opportunities, and database resources.

As for best practices, I would say the following: 1. Make sure to keep your Latina/o Studies program “alive” and visible each semester through speakers’ series, working groups, and other kinds of venues that attract a variety of participants—faculty and graduate students from a range of departments, undergraduates, administration, staff, alumni/ae, donors, and interested members of the greater community. 2. Have a clear mission and a strong intrinsic reason for the location or institutional positioning of Latina/o Studies whether it is housed in a particular department or is “free standing” as its own department. Both scenarios present opportunities, challenges, limitations, and frustrations, especially in public universities currently struggling to find adequate funding. 3. Generate activities (i.e., speakers series) and participate in organizing structures (regional consortiums and national associations) that place your program in a network of programs and keep it visible beyond the immediate institutional and/or local frames of reference. 4. Be pro-active in engaging administrators, students, and the wider community in which your Latina/o Studies Program is situated about the specific contributions that your program is making to the education and professional preparation of your institution’s undergraduates and graduate students and to the professional development and support of the faculty associated with your program. 5. Keep the offerings of the program fresh and open to new ideas by experimenting with more micro-scale programming that can be managed by graduate and undergraduate students who would like to professionalize themselves through involvement with the planning, advertising, and hands-on management of audio-visual documentation of your events, the creation and maintenance of internet presence (via a website or other digital media tools), speakers series, working groups, conferences, panel presentations, film screenings, and art shows. 6. Advertise and document everything that your program in Latina/o Studies does—via websites, a listserv, judiciously employed social media, and word of mouth. 7. Engage your university’s libraries (including art and film libraries) and archives whenever possible to be sure that the libraries are keeping pace with the scholarly endeavors in Latina/o Studies on your campus and that the university archivists are informed about the institutional value of your program and that they are willing to help you preserve documents and other materials pertaining to the creation and development of your program. 8. If you find yourself attempting to foment Latina/o Studies in a geographical area with very few Latina/os or at a school with a low minority population, consider who your best allies might be in terms of already existing colleagues, programs, curricula, and departments and encourage them to explore Latina/o experiences and cultural productions within the rubric of what they are already doing. 9. In your own teaching, devise ways of introducing the perspectives and critical tools generated by Latina/o Studies to whatever material you may be teaching—even when you are asked to teach courses that are not explicitly Latina/o Studies courses. In other words, treat Latina/o Studies not only as subject matter, but also as a critical lens or, rather, an array of critical lenses through which you, your colleagues, and your students can examine any subject. I have taught a number of otherwise rather traditional U.S. literature surveys this way. In fact, I am teaching one such class now. I call it “Night Optics of the U.S. Novel.” The first novel on our list is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night (1934) and we are analyzing it through the lenses of critical paradigms furnished by Latina/o Studies (for example, the challenge offered by Latina/o Studies to black/white binary conceptions of race and ethnicity in the United States). A Latina/o Studies-inflected approach to a U.S. classic like Fitzgerald’s novel Tender is the Night is yielding some impressive insights among the students and I look forward to their essays on this and the other novels we are reading for this class. I highly recommend making Latina/o Studies relevant to whatever you find yourself having to teach. This method allows you to introduce students to Latina/o Studies in a manner that de-ghettoizes it and that encourages all students, regardless of major and/or minor, to find use value in the contributions of Latina/o Studies.

María DeGuzmán is Professor of English & Comparative Literature and founding Director of Latina/o Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of two books: Spain’s Long Shadow: The Black Legend, Off-Whiteness, and Anglo-American Empire (University of Minnesota Press, August 2005) and Buenas Noches, American Culture: Latina/o Aesthetics of Night (Indiana University Press, June 2012). She has published many articles on Latina/o cultural production, and she writes and teaches about relationships between literature and various kinds of photographic practice. She is also a conceptual photographer who produces photos and photo-text work, both solo and in collaboration with colleagues and friends. She has published essays and photo-stories involving her photography. Her images have been chosen as the cover art for books by Cuban American writer Cristina García and the poet Glenn Sheldon and for books by academic scholars. Her photography has been exhibited in galleries in the U.S. and abroad. She is also a music composer. Her music explores storytelling with and beyond words and the creation of strongly atmospheric “scenes” through various kinds of acoustical experiments with instrumental as well as vocal music. She is enhancing already existing courses and developing new courses by combining the study and practice of literature, optics, and acoustics. You can listen to samples of her music at: https://soundcloud.com/mariadeguzman

Works Cited:

DeGuzmán, María. “Emerging Geographies of a Latina/o Studies Program.” In Southeastern Geographer. Volume 51, Number 2, Summer 2011: 307–326.

Odem, M. E. and Lacy, E. (eds). Latino Immigrants and the Transformation of the U.S. South. Athens: The University of Georgia, 2009.

UNC Chapel Hill Program in Latina/o Studies Website: www.lsp.unc.edu. Last visited 2 September 2015.