Dominique Villegas, 2013
What was your favorite Latino/a Studies course?
My favorite Latino/a Studies course was Prof. Claudia Milian's Memoir and Autobiography class. It was a small seminar setting and we profoundly delved into each book we read.
How did you become interested in the Program in Latino/a Studies?
I originally considered a Spanish major to pair with my Public Policy major when I arrived at Duke, but then I learned about the Latino/a Studies program when our advisor, Jenny Snead Williams visited one of my classes. I'm a fluent Spanish speaker, so I thought the certificate would not only allow me to practice my Spanish, but also expose me to topics, professors, and experiences that I otherwise would not have had simply through a Spanish major.
How did your interest eventually evolve into a decision to pursue the certificate?
As soon as Jenny presented the program details to my class, I enrolled a week later. It was a decision that I'm so happy about. The certificate has truly enriched my undergraduate career.
What are your plans after graduation? How do you see yourself continuing to apply what you have learned in Latino/a Studies?
I plan to move to Washington DC. During my senior semester, I worked on the Obama campaign, organizing the Latino Vote in the Triangle. It was an unbelievable experience, and really solidified my interest in public service and advocacy, especially for issues such as immigration and healthcare reform that affect Latinos on a daily basis. I'm in the process of interviewing for a few different fellowships that would hopefully lead me into the world of policy and politics!
How has Latino/a Studies changed, or shaped your understanding of how society works?
The Latino/a Studies program has helped me better understand representation in this country. By that, I refer to the way we frame and consequently relate to others, ourselves, and specific groups of people. We live in a society that allows certain people the authority to decide how others are framed, represented, and viewed. My certificate has truly pushed me to become more aware of misrepresentations in society and to correct them through my own behavior, opinions, and decisions. I don't think I go a day without noticing misrepresentations around me, especially as a "Latina." Furthermore, I don't think I have gone a day since the start of my certificate without asking myself the question, "What does it mean to be "Latino?"
Why is having a Program in Latino/a Studies at Duke important?
Latinos are the fastest growing minority in our country. To ignore that would be mistake. I applaud Duke and all other institutions that have programs that allow students of all backgrounds to engage with and explore the idea of 'Latino-ness.' As a Public Policy major and someone highly interested in pursuing a life dedicated to public service, I could not be more thankful of this certificate as I know it has shaped me into a better, more critical person and will certainly help me be a more effective leader and professional one day.
What is some advice you would give other students pursuing a certificate in Latino/a Studies?
Take the time to get to know your professors. We are lucky to attend a university where the professors have a true dedication to the undergraduates. They are our most valuable resource at this university and our best sources of advice and guidance. Trust their wisdom! Besides that, read as much as you can, save all your notes, and keep yourself informed on current events!