I had always struggled to connect with the material in history classes because it was so far-removed from my life. One minute, we would be learning about one section of society warring against another. The next minute, we would be learning about how the winner went by a different name now and had fought and lost to a new group. It was hard for me to relate to this material and engage with it.
This wasn’t the case with Professor Jacqueline Nanfito‘s classes on Latin American history, especially her SPAN 317 Contemporary Latin American Culture course. We learned from a variety of sources: songs, poetry, and first person diary entries. We also relied on a typical history textbook. On a more personal note, Professor Nanfito encouraged us to look into issues that we were interested in, and she did her part by sharing current news impacting Latin Americans around the world and drawing connections to the history that we were studying. In doing so, she gave us the context I needed to appreciate history. She put a face on a subject that I always felt was too impersonal.
What I took away from these classes was a basic, but holistic understanding of Latin American cultures. That, combined with personal connections and experience working with refugees, has given me a solid foundation for a career in education with a focus on supporting the Latinx community. There is so much I still have to learn. The important thing is that I feel confident in knowing where I can look for answers and what kinds of questions to ask. As a Fulbright scholar in Mexico, I will be sure to be seeing differences in the education system, and I’m glad to have a framework that will help me understand why things look different, and how I should adjust myself to function the most effectively.
What is one of your greatest professional accomplishments or recent professional accomplishment of note?
I was recently selected for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) award to Mexico. ETAs in Mexico spend about 25 hours per week supporting English teaching in classrooms at the high school and university levels, and at teacher training colleges. ETAs also pursue a side project of their choosing.
Do you have advice for current students?
My advice to current students is to seek out positions (research, volunteering, jobs) in which you are not wholly confident of your success. A big part of this is accepting risk. Accept the possibility of failure — and know that you might succeed to your own surprise.
After all, no one is perfectly rational when it comes to assessing risk or predicting outcomes. Sometimes we make judgments with too little information. Sometimes we attribute too much weight to potential negative outcomes. Sometimes we set the bar for action too high, and in doing so succumb to the human tendency toward inaction.
You’re not always going to succeed. But if you think you could gain something, take a chance anyways.
What is your favorite memory and/or spot on campus?
Wade Lagoon during the spring!
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