Sylvia Spotlights: Writing, Women, and the Big "What-ifs"

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Archive for the category “Latino”

“My Writing Process” Blog Tour

Deadlines. Flexibility. Routine. The need to write. The need to create or produce. Fortunately, I am disciplined to sit at my desk and write almost daily, but taking part in this “My Writing Process” blog tour at the invitation of a writer and teacher I truly admire—Judy Reeves, author of A Writer’s Book of Days–really made me think. Judy is currently working on Wild Women, Wild Voices, which intrigues me to no end since I’m a big advocate for empowering women. You can find out more about Judy’s projects and process at www.judyreeveswriter.com

Diving into the 4 questions this blog tour is based on, I begin…

  1. What am I working on?

That’s a loaded question since I write non-fiction, fiction and articles—and teach.

For fiction I’m working on “the book of my heart.” Finally. It’s been simmering and shifting voice and point of view and being pushed to the back burner for seven years now. It’s about a breast cancer survivor who has lost her mojo and believes the only way she can get it back is by reviving her high school rock band—much to the surprise of her husband, kids, and best friends/band members. This year I have an agent who is so ready to take it out into the world, that I finally have a deadline. Maybe that’s what was missing all along. As a journalist I thrive on deadlines.

Salsa Serenade, previously published as Serenade

Salsa Serenade, previously published as Serenade

I’m also self-publishing my old romance titles that I received the rights back on. The first, Salsa Serenade, is out now.

Non-fiction--biographies of 150 remarkable Latinas.

Non-fiction–biographies of 150 remarkable Latinas.

For non-fiction, I still work with my The Book of Latina Women: 150 Vidas of Passion, Strength and Success. The 2013 re-release is currently a finalist in the International Latino Book Awards; winners will be announced on June 28 at a banquet in Las Vegas. Receiving that call from Kirk Whisler of Latino Literacy Now was my version of what the Academy Awards must be like. I was speechless and teary and overcome. The women featured in the book are amazing and even today I get goosebumps when I speak about them. My agent and I are talking about breaking down the book into a series for middle grade readers and highlighting much-needed Latina role models from various career fields.

For journalism, my favorite magazine to write for is Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education. I cover amazing educators, advances in the education field, overcoming stereotypes and visionary perspectives. Next up is a piece on the incredible community outreach work being done by students of the MFA program at Cal State San Bernardino headed by Dr. Juan Delgado, a poet himself.

  1. How does my work differ from that of others of its genre?

Good question. In all my work—fiction, non-fiction, articles—I find myself writing about inspiring people/characters I’d want to hang around with at a dinner table. I write about strong, intelligent, selfless women, Latinos and Latinas who blaze trails and surpass the bar. I write about people who have integrity and values and follow their passion despite the risks; those who have time for others and learn as much as they teach. Those who question the norm and break stereotypes. Those who speak for the underdog. Their stories mesmerize and need to be told.

  1. Why do I write what I do?

Because I believe every person has a story to tell—and that includes the characters that live in my head for my novels. I’m intrigued by people and their journeys, their obstacles and their vision. I’m often in awe of how they can somehow pull from that inner core—even on the darkest of days—strength, desire, perseverance and passion to change direction and make things happen.

  1. How does your writing process work?

It starts with acceptance of fewer hours sleep and that my desk will never stay clean for more than a couple of days before the next project takes over the space. It usually pays off in the end…

Elbow deep in a new project

Elbow deep in a new project

In the READ LOCAL San Diego booth at the Encinitas Street Fair

In the READ LOCAL San Diego booth at the Encinitas Street Fair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I teach media studies and journalism at a community college. The days I don’t, I get up by 5:00 to start writing on my fiction. For some reason, my brain is in its more creative juices. On those days I pick up where I left off. Almost always I work on my desktop computer, though I carry a notebook to jot down ideas, or else I forget. I’m going to try to use my laptop this summer for more portability. I take an exercise break—usually a spin class or brisk walk—around 9:30 to get the blood flowing and give my brain a rest. Then right back to it.

In the afternoons, between lesson plans and grading papers, I work on articles, non-fiction, or editing. That could mean research. Interviews. Outlines. Transcribing notes. First draft. Second draft. Third draft. Sometimes more, especially for articles. At night I’m usually fried, so I watch TV and enjoy it, dissecting well-written shows.

Deadlines trump all routines, however. When I worked on The Book of Latina Women, two weeks before deadline, I was probably at my desk 15-18 hours a day.

And then there’s life. Curve balls are thrown at us all the time and I deal with those as they come. More importantly, I like spending time with my kids, family and friends and practice escapism in different forms like salsa dance lessons, hiking, reading, traveling, eating, movies and concerts. I convince myself they’ll bring a depth to my writing, one way or another.

I figure how can I write about life if I’m not experiencing it?

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’d like to learn more about my projects and writing life, please check out www.sylvia-mendoza.com

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Now it’s time to pass the baton. Two of my friends are up next on this blog tour and will post their routines on May 5.

NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Caridad Pineiro is a Jersey Girl who’s written over 40 novels/novellas—dark and sexy romantic suspense and paranormal romances for those who live to love on the edge—and contemporary romances under her sweet, but still naughty side, Charity Pineiro. Visit www.caridad.com/blog

Ara Burklund writes YA with a unique voice and twist. Her first book, If I Die Before I Wake, is out now from the Alloy Entertainment division of Warner Brothers. Take a look at her other projects, sure to stand out in the ever-expanding YA genre, at www.araburklund.com

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The Salvation of Artist Fabian “Spade” Debora

Picasso: Transforming a San Antonio Community

Picasso, Amigos & Contemporaneos

The Picasso, Amigos & Contemporaneos exhibit at Texas A&M University San Antonio brought more to the community than exposure to great art.

ASSIGNMENT: FINAL PROJECT/BACKPACK JOURNALISM
Digital Journalism Masters Program
By Sylvia Mendoza


Okay. This was one of the most difficult, most challenging homework assignments I’ve EVER had. I lost track of the number of hours–no–days spent on developing the story.

In retrospect, since I’m a print journalist, I should have just written the story the way I normally would, then break it down into script format for the video I put together.  The story was pretty amazing and inspirational as it was–my favorite types of stories. Texas A&M University, San Antonio, is in the “South Side,” which up until now, has been notoriously an impoverished area with high drop out rates.

Texas A&M opened this campus in the heart of this community, the only four year university in the surrounding vicinity. The positive impact has been great. Enrollment increases every semester. With more than 500 acres to build upon, the architectural plans are phenomenal and the curriculm, top of the line.

And the best part–the community has access to everything it offers–from classes to cultural events and everything in between.

With the effort of many, the university brought the exhibit “Picasso, Amigos & Contemporaneos” straight from Spain; never before had any of the 97 pieces left that country. Nearly 10,000 people made their way to the exhibit.

With the motto: Access to Success, the university gave a glimpse of greatness, and all of a sudden, many residents and student saw a glimpse of all the possiblities for their own futures and the blessings in their own backyard.

Onward.

Texas A&M University San Antonio

Texas A&M San Antonio is shaking things up on the South Side. The possibilities for growth in educational & cultural avenues is great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Script –Picasso: Transforming a San Antonio Community

 [Notes: VERSION 1]

The Picasso, Amigos & Contemporaneos Exhibit took place from March through May 2012 at Texas A&M University, San Antonio, a brand new campus with only one building to its name.

[ReadRate:15]

[Reporter/Narrator: MENDOZA]{**MENDOZA**}

[TAKE: CLIP Montage of San Antonio Proper; lead into South Side San Antonio & Photos of Picasso: VO/Mendoza]: 1:30

ATH THE HEART OF SAN ANTONIO, THERE IS A CULTURAL RICHNESS IT OFFERS ITS PEOPLE AND TOURISTS ALIKE. LESS THAN 25 MILES FROM ITS CORE, HOWEVER IS…THE SOUTH SIDE, UP UNTIL NOW,  AN IMPOVERISHED AREA WITH A HIGH DROP OUT RATE AND NOT MUCH OPPORTUNITY TO WITNESS AND EXPERIENCE THE ART & EDUCATION AS INSPIRATION.

BUT WHEN TEXAS A&M OPENED ITS SAN ANTONIO CAMPUS ON THE SOUTH SIDE LAST AUGUST, THE MOTTO WAS “ACCESS TO SUCCESS.” THIS WAS BECAUSE OF THE BELIEF THAT THE MORE THEY OPENED THEIR DOORS TO CULTURAL AND EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES, THE MORE THE COMMUNITY WOULD BENEFIT.  

BRINGING a PICASSO EXHIBIT TO THE CAMPUS BECAME A MISSION FOR THE UNIVERSITY AND THE EFFORTS OF MANY MADE IT HAPPEN. SYLVIA SUTTON, A TEXAS A&M MOM BORN AND RAISED ON THE SOUTHSIDE—AND A FORMER SCHOOL PRINCIPAL, STARTED THE BALL ROLLING.

SERVING ON THE NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL SPANISH TASK FORCE OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION IN WASHINGTON, D.C., SHE IS A CERTIFIED GENEOLOGIST. HER RESEARCH TOOK HER TO SPAIN OFTEN. WHILE IN SPAIN, SHE BEFRIENDED JAVIER MEDINA, THE OWNER OF AN EXTRAORDINARY AMOUNT OF PICASSO WORKS AND CONVINCED HIM TO BRING AN EXHIBIT TO SAN ANTONIO, AND, MORE SPECIFICALLY, TO TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY, SAN ANTONIO.

 

Texas A&M University San Antonio

Grand clock tower at TAMUSA entrance greets students, community & visitors

 

[TAKE: VO: SYLVIA SUTTON]: 56 I THINK I WAS A GOOD DAUGHTER. I WAS A GOOD PROFESSIONAL. I WAS A SCHOOL TEACHER AND THEN A SCHOOL PRINCIPAL FOR 23 YEARS. I WAS A GOOD MOTHER, I HOPE. AND A GOOD WIFE. AND NOW I’M ENTERING ANOTHER SEASON OF MY LIFE. AND I WAS THINKING WHAT CAN I DO FOR MY PEOPLE?

THIS VISION OF WHY NOT THE SOUTH SIDE? WHY NOT BRING IT TO THESE PEOPLE? MANY OF THEM WILL LIVE THEIR LIVES AND NEVER SEE A PICASSO OR A WORK OF ART. WHY NOT PICASSO COME TO THEM?

[TAKE: VIDEO DR. MARIA FERRIER]: 40 SYLVIA SUTTON HAD BEEN WORKING WITH THE PEOPLE OF DE GALVEZ, BUT ALSO WITH THE PICASSO FOLKS. AND THE PICASSO FOLKS SAID “WE WANT TO BRING THIS SHOW TO THE UNITED STATES AND TO TEXAS BECAUSE OF THE DE GALVEZ CONNECTION. AND SHE SAID, “WELL, I KNOW A UNIVERSITY WHERE YOU SHOULD DO IT. SURE ENOUGH, BEFORE THIS BUILDING WAS COMPLETELY BUILT, THE GUYS FROM SPAIN CAME, LOOKED AT THE SECOND FLOOR AND SAID, “OH MY GOODNESS. THIS IS THE PERFECT EXHIBIT HALL. SO THAT’S HOW IT WAS DECIDED TO BRING IT HERE.

 

[PAN: STILLS]: 9

[TAKE: VIDEO DR. MARIA FERRIER]: 45 WE HAVE A BRAND NEW CHANCELLOR BY THE NAME OF JOHN SHARP AND HE IS AMAZING. I TOLD HIM ABOUT THE VISION, HE SAID, “ALL RIGHT MARIA, WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU?” AND I TOLD HIME AND HER MADE IT HAPPEN.

SO FOR OUR STUDENTS—AND NOT JUST THE STUDENTS BUT FOR THIS COMMUNITY,  THIS VERY UNDERSERVED AREA OF SAN ANTONIO, TO HAVE THE GREAT WORKS OF PICASSO—AND NOT ONLY PICASSO BUT SALVADOR DALI—IT’S CALLED PICASSO, AMIGOS y CONTEMPORANEOS—SO HIS CONTEMPORARIES AND EVEN SOME OF HIS TEACHERS…WE’VE HAD MORE THAN 6,000 PEOPLE COME BY HERE.

 

[TAKE: VO/ MENDOZA]: 1.00 FOR ALMOST TWO MONTHS, 97 PIECES OF ART BY PICASSO AND FRIENDS THAT HAVE NEVER BEFORE LEFT SPAIN had found their way to TAMUSA CAMPUS. IT HAS MADE AN IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY. ALMOST 10,000 PEOPLE HAVE WITNESSED THIS RARE OPPORTUNITY. FOR MANY, THIS IS A CHANCE OF A LIFETIME.

FOR OTHERS, SEEING THESE GREAT PIECES BY PICASSO HAS NOT ONLY BROUGHT ART IN THEIR LIVES AND INTO THEIR SOULS, THE EXPERIENCE CAN IMPACT AND AFFECT THEIR VISION OF THEIR OWN FUTURE. TEXAS A&M HAS GIVEN THEM ACCESS THAT CAN VERY WELL LEAD THEM TO THEIR OWN SUCCESS.

[TAKE: PAN STILLS]: 10

[TAKE: VIDEO: DR. FERRIER]: 15 IT HAS BEEN ABSOLUTELY HUGE FOR OUR COMMUNITY AND OUR STATE. AND WE WERE VERY, VERY BLESSED. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? IT’S ALL ABOUT THOSE DIVINE CONNECTIONS I ABSOLUTELY BELIEVE IN AND WITNESS EVERY DAY.


[TAKE: PAN STILLS/ VO MENDOZA]: 25 PERHAPS TEXAS A&M STUDENTS AND THE COMMUNITY ON THE SOUTH SIDE WILL BE INSPIRED BY PICASSO, BY HIS ART AND BY HIS PURPOSE. PERHAPS THEY’LL BE INSPIRED TO REACH FOR THEIR OWN SUCCESS. HAVING THE PICASSO, AMIGOS & CONTEMPORARIOS EXHIBIT AT THIS CAMPUS WAS ALMOST MAGICAL.

 

[TAKE: VO: Sylvia Sutton]: 10 THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY’LL SAY 30 YEARS FROM NOW. MY UNIVERSITY HAD PICASSO HANGING IN THE HALLWAYS. AND THEY’RE GOING TO SAY, “YOU’RE CRAZY.”

[OUTCUE: MENDOZA]: 6 “FROM THE SOUTH SIDE, AT TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY, SAN ANTONIO, I’M SYLVIA MENDOZA.”

TOTAL TIME:4:45] {**PKG**}

Picasso at Texas A&M, San Antonio: Transforming Community

Le Goût du Bonheur, 5/16/1964. Reproduction of a drawing from a sketchbook. © 2012 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Le Goût du Bonheur, 5/16/1964. Reproduction of a drawing from a sketchbook. © 2012 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Our assignment in Week 2 of the Backpack Journalism master’s class at National University was to develop a google map and corresponding story. I was on assignment for Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine at Texas A&M University, San Antonio, to cover the “Picasso, Amigos & Contemporaneos” exhibit there, which had been a huge success. How did it ever come to this one building university on the “south side” of San Antonio, the only 4-year university in the impoverished area? The TAMUSA administration is determined to keep bringing opportunity and access to students and the community at large, and offered free admission to this exhibit, in particular. It opened eyes, brought awe and gave tribute to the hard-working community.

Here is my blurb, also found at my Google map of the event.

An incredible  “Picasso, Amigos & Contemporaneos” exhibit was held at Texas A&M University, San Antonio, approximately 15 miles from the famous Riverwalk San Antonio, and 25 miles from the airport. It is the first time these 97 works of art in different mediums had ever left Spain. Since opening on the “south side”  last year, the university has brought the community cultural wealth in the arts, opera, music and politics–even the governor has spoken at this shiny new one-building university that has plans to grow in the next 10 years. The motto “Access & Success” drives the faculty, administration and community to provide opportunities to its students at this, the only 4-year university in the area. Picasso is only the beginning.

Please see my Google map at: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=202476648307905244629.0004c0158d193c969b79f&msa=0

The “Browning of America”: Will Latinos Truly Influence the 2012 Elections?

Civil Rights Activist Dr. Stephan Balkaran

Dr. Stephan Balkaran, Professor of African-American Studies and Coordinator of the Civil Rights Project at Central Connecticut State University

The Browning of America: Will Latinos Truly Influence the 2012 Elections?
By Sylvia Mendoza

It is election year and even though the focus may be on presidential candidates, there is another major force to be reckoned with—the Latino presence in the United States. With more than 51 million Hispanics living in the country, the potential voting power can easily tilt the scales for any candidate.

Yet, instead of seeing the positive influence a huge Latino turnout at the polls can be, candidates are cautious when addressing the Hispanic community. Emphasis has shifted to the controversial issues of immigration reform, variations of the Dream Act and the swell of racial tension that affects American-born Latinos as well as undocumented immigrants.  Stereotypes of the Latino community have been perpetuated, inciting racism, racial profiling, hate crimes, discrimination and civil and human rights violations.

At the American Association of Hispanics In Higher Education (AAHHE) Conference held in Costa Mesa, California, in March, Dr. Stephan Balkaran, a professor of African-American Studies and coordinator of the Civil Rights Project at Central Connecticut University, presented the workshop: “Can the Hispanic Vote Change the Outcome of the 2012 Election? “No other immigrant group in the history of the United States has the opportunity to redefine America—politically, economically, and socially—like the Hispanic community today.” 

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are more than 51 million Hispanics living in the United States. Approximately 11 million are undocumented. In Georgia, Illinois, Idaho and New Jersey, the Hispanic population has grown by more than 180% since the 2000 census. Under the Hispanic “umbrella,” there are many ethnicities. Immigrants from Mexico are the highest population in the U.S. at 39%, followed by Puerto Rican, Cuban and Guatemalan.

U. S. Hispanic Population

U.S.Hispanic Population (by millions)
2010 U.S. Decennial Census

Balkaran has termed this presence as the “browning of America.” In mainstream white America, he said, the image of Latinos is mostly negative and that image has to change. “Whether you’re fourth generation or a recent immigrant, you are always marginalized by the color of your skin,” he said. “It isn’t about the economic strain of Latinos in this country or the language barrier. It’s that this country isn’t ready for brown.”

Latino Population Swings the Vote

PINK: California, Texas, Illinois, Florida and New York each have more than 1 million immigrants.
BLUE: In Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia, the Latino population has doubled--or increased up to 180%--since the 2000 U.S. Census.

An immigrant from Trinidad, Balkaran arrived in the U.S. at age 18 and started working at the United Nations and World Bank internships. As he studied, however, he witnessed disturbing trends at the university level. “When I became a professor, I started to see how the institutions treated black and brown professors. They were passed over for promotions, research was undermined.”

The author of “The Photobiography of the Civil Rights Movement” and “Broken Dreams, Broken Promises, Disparities and Disappointments: Civil Rights in the 21st Century,” Balkaran was determined to teach about the effects of race and culture. “We have to overcome fears based on race and embrace social change and diversity.”  

That positive social change can occur if Latinos vote, said Balkaran. Voto Latino, a grassroots organization, has been building a movement to get Hispanics registered to vote and estimate that 12 million will do so this year. “The Hispanic vote cannot be taken for granted,” said Balkaran. “We’ll be the major vote in the next 20 years.”

Politicians have honed in on that vote, but seem reluctant to address hot topic buttons like immigration reform and the Dream Act.  “Immigration reform has become the Civil Rights movement of the 21st century,” said Balkaran.

Even so, only presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has put a plan on the table. “He says that if immigrants been here 20 years, have gone to church, have learned English and have no criminal acts, let them be citizens,” explained Balkaran. 

Obama, on the other hand, has lost the confidence of the Latino community because of his failure to address the issue, said Balkaran. “He’s fixed Wall Street and Main Street but not Brown or Black Streets. He broke up more families in his first term of presidency than two terms combined with President Bush. He has reneged on the greatest asset of this country. America’s greatest betrayal is on Hispanics.”

During President Obama’s term in office, the number of deportations has hit record highs, yet no immigration reform policy has been instituted. Since 2007 nearly 1 million immigrants have been deported. In 2011 alone, there were nearly 400,000 deportations to Mexico. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is focusing on deporting those with a criminal record, but only 35% of those deported had committed serious crimes.

Deportations From 2001-2010. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). From http://www.AmericasVoiceOnline.org

Immigration reform has been addressed in prior years, but currently affects mostly the Mexican population because the Wet-foot, Dry-Foot policy protects Cuban immigrants and other policies are in place for immigrants from Nicaragua, Guatemala, Columbia and Haiti. The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 held employers accountable and they faced fines for employing undocumented workers. It also gave amnesty to those who had been in the country since before 1982. In 2001, President George W. Bush and Mexico’s President Vicente Fox had agreed on an immigration reform policy that both countries could live with, which included border security, drug trafficking control and legalization solutions for those already living in the U.S. Before it could be implemented, however, the terrorist attacks on September 11, brought discussions to a halt.

Despite President Obama’s failure to establish an immigration reform policy, which was a high priority in his last campaign, and current deportation statistics, a Fox News Latino poll showed that Hispanics are still more likely to vote for Obama again unless a Republican brings in a Latino on his/her ticket.

Another issue that can affect the way Latinos vote is the Dream Act. Variations of the Dream Act have been passed—or not—on a state by state basis. Tom Curry, national affairs writer for msnbc.com explained that the Dream Act offers a form of amnesty for “those entered the United States illegally before their 16th birthday to remain as legal U.S. residents, as long as they’d committed no serious crimes, earned a high school diploma, or served in the military.” According to stopab131.com, led by California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, AB 131 allows illegal immigrant students to apply for and be eligible to receive California grants, scholarships and financial aid to attend state colleges and universities. Even though citizens would be first to receive this aid, state tuitions are increasing by almost 12% and financial aid is being cut. However, the CalWatchdog site states that approximately $15-40 million has been earmarked for Dream Act recipients.

The answer is not in prosecuting innocent kids who want a college education, said Balkaran. “Those who say they are taking away opportunity from white kids is ridiculous. How many white Americans live off the government collecting welfare? Why are those numbers never brought to light? Every immigrant that went before us has gotten a piece of the pie, but when it comes to brown America, the rules change. The dream is for all of us.”

Latinos can definitely influence the elections this year, said Balkaran, and that American dream can become a reality if Latinos get involved in grassroots efforts not only to vote and voice their opinion, but to run for office at a local level, like school boards. Community engagement is crucial.  “We need to start breaking down barriers, elevate ourselves with education, and practice diversity,” said Balkaran. “Latinos have the power in numbers alone to effect social change.”

 

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Latino Scholars: Stepping Out of the Ivory Tower

Loui Olivas Interview

Dr. Loui Olivas of Arizona State University& AAHHE Founder

Dr. Loui Olivas, Arizona State Assistant VP for Academic Affairs, says AAHHE helps develop Latino/a faculty and administrators for leadership positions in higher education and serves as an advocacy group to help Hispanics complete graduate & doctoral programs.

 

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Latino Scholars: Stepping Out of the Ivory Tower to Lead
By Sylvia Mendoza  

Even with a master’s degree or twenty years experience in a dream career, it would be easy to feel like a slacker when sitting among the nearly 400 attendees at the annual American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) Convention. Even though the gathering of scholars could be intimidating, it is mostly inspiring. At the opening reception, Rubén Martinez, author of Crossing Over, jokingly stated, “There are so many PhDs in here, we could make the Hilton Costa Mesa levitate without assistance of any substance.”

The 7th annual AAHHE convention was held in Costa Mesa, California, March 7-10. The 2012 theme, “Celebrating Our Similarities, Embracing Our Differences,” reflects AAHHE’s mission: to bring together Hispanic professors, deans, chancellors, presidents, and administrators of higher education institutions with students to celebrate research, dissertations and other accomplishments.

Embracing “differences” includes acknowledging the many ethnicities that fall under the “Hispanic” umbrella—Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Salvadoran, Ecuadorian, and many more. “Similarities include our desire for equal access to higher education, and how Latino scholars produce amazingly fine material once they get there,” explained Dr. Loui Olivas, a business professor at Arizona State University and one of the AAHHE founders.

Often times, however, it is a long journey. A Latino pursuing a PhD can be the only person of color in his or her university and can feel isolated. At the convention, however, students are not alone.

The convention showcases doctoral research in the annual dissertation competition. Topics run the gamut: microbiology, transborder studies,  food science, health, political science, social justice, business, medicine, communication and education—not just Chicano studies.

Dozens of workshops featured the latest findings in those areas. Keynote speakers Luis Ubiña, president of the Ford Foundation, and artist-activist Dr. Judith Baca of UCLA, revealed their personal struggles to rise to the top of their games. “My mother who was from Ecuador, bent her back over a sewing machine to get me to a better place,” said Ubiña. He ended up at Harvard. The Foundation, which offers approximately $500 million a year to various worldwide charities that effect social change, will also support AAHHE efforts, he said. Baca explained how her art is a reflection and celebration of the journeys of Latino families and their place in California history. Raised by women in East L.A., her grandmother was a powerful influence. “Women survive in a hostile environment and lead movements,” she said.   

For attendees whose roots gave them the gumption to seek the proverbial “American Dream,” the speakers’ messages struck a chord.  “Judith was the first AAHHE speaker to ever get a standing ovation,” said Olivas.

Indeed, the convention seemed like a celebration of all things Latino. Connections were made over café con leche. Attendees slipped from Spanish to English, or Spanglish. In between workshops, there was laughter and heated discussion, art displays and salsa music, kisses and hugs instead of handshakes—all from a robust culture-based energy. “It’s like my family, mi familia,” said Dr. Leticia Oseguera, assistant professor of Education Policy Studies at Penn State.

For many, family helped get the Latino scholars to the likes of Harvard and Stanford, Cornell and Georgetown, USC and UCLA. At the AAHHE convention their education continued. They witnessed generations of successful Latino administrators who have been there, done that. They survived and thrived and now make a difference in decision-making positions that reach far beyond the ivory tower of a higher education institution.

As the young Latino scholars step into those leadership positions over the next twenty years, engaging their communities will better impact social change, said Olivas. “When Latino scholars give back to the community, everyone benefits.”  

 

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