You are viewing all posts

Congrats to Certificate Recipients, May 2013

    • dominique
    • pic of tawanna 4 horizontal
    • pic of birdie 2 horizontal
  • Previous
  • Next

Congratulations to our three May 2013 recipients of the undergraduate Certificate in Latino/a Studies in the Global South: Tawanna St. Lewis, Biridiana Rodriguez, and Dominique Villegas. Click on the individual links to view these students' profiles!

Share |

Student, Tawanna St. Lewis

    • pic of tawanna 3 horizontal

 1)    What was your favorite Latino/a Studies course?

My favorite Latino/a studies course was the Capstone course I took with Antonio Viego.  This was actually the first class I attended in Latino Studies. In this course I read books that really opened my eyes to the controversy being faced by the Latino/a community. Before this class, I was forced to view and understand the Latino/a community solely through the lens of the media but when I began reading more academic sources and participating in class discussions I was able to gain a more profound understanding of the issues as well as the ability to think independent of media stereotypes when discussing the Latino/a community.

2)    2)  How did you become interested in Program in Latino/a Studies?

 I grew up in a neighborhood that was approximately 70% Latino/a.  In my high school just about every country in Latin America and the Caribbean was represented.  Growing up in this diverse atmosphere, with friends from numerous nationalities, I always wanted to understand what made one of my friends whose parents were from one Latin American country different from another.  Often times I’d listen to family members and friends of family members discuss the Latino community as if everyone was the same but growing up where I did, I knew otherwise.  However, I was never quite able to articulate the differences that existed because although I knew those differences exist I didn’t quite know what they were and thus I was often forced to accept (or at least subdue to) the “well they all speak Spanish” discourse.  When I learned of the Latino/a Studies program at Duke I was very excited because I had finally found a class that I thought would not only teach me about and give me the opportunity to learn about the people, culture, and history of Latin America but of the very Latino/a citizens of the United States that I had grew up with, what they or their predecessors went through, what they are going through today to gain recognition/respect from their government and fellow non-Hispanic citizen, and more importantly how they choose to self-identify. 

3)    What is some advice that you would give other students pursuing a certificate in Latino/a Studies?

Have an open mind! This is so important for just about any class you take at Duke but so much more important for classes where you are learning about culture, identity, and politics.  You have to be willing to set aside any preconceived notions you may have of the Latino community from your family, the media, or the one Latino/a you know from school and be ready to listen and learn from a more diverse group. In that group may be your professors but more often than not you need to be willing to learn from your peers who bring to class their own interpretations of readings/lessons and at times their firsthand knowledge of being a member of the Latino/a community themselves. Finally, be willing to experience the Latino/a community from different vantage points, you may be from an area that has a large Latino community but your understanding of the Latino community may be different from another classmate who experiences the Latino community in NY or say Maryland; this goes for the academic works you are studying as well where each author attempts to explain the Latino/a community differently or in a new way from those before them.

Share |

Student, Destiny Hemphill

    • destiny latinoa studies

 What was your favorite Latino/a Studies course?

My favorite Latino/a Studies courses so far have been Introduction to Latino/a Studies with Professor Claudia Milian and Intro to Psychoanalytic Theory with Professor Antonio Viego. Professor Milian’s intro course was fascinating to me in that it not only provided the history of how the discipline of Latino/a Studies was established at the institutional level as well as evaluated a variety of texts form various disciplines. Thus, for instance, reading Junot Diaz’s The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Patricia Engel’s Vida, we engaged with contemporary fiction Latino/a literature. We also looked at the representation of Latino/as in marketing and evaluated the implications of commercialization, commodification, and consumerism on the possibility of attaining full integration into other spheres of U.S. society, such as that of politics.

In Professor Viego’s class, it was the first time that I was forced to engage seriously with Freudian psychoanalysis. Deconstructing Freudian and neo-Freudian texts ended up being an absorbing process because it opened up possibilities of thinking how psychoanalysis can be related to the experiences and identity formation of ethno-racialized subjects, such as Latino/as. That connection would have never been apparent to me if I had not taken that class.

How has Latino/a Studies changed and/or shaped your understanding of how society works?

I have found the Program in Latino/a Studies to be particularly enriching in that it has helped me see how similar the experiences of racialization, assimilation, identity formation/construction, and oppression are among various ethno-racialized subjects in the U.S. as well as appreciate the nuances. Furthermore, while I never found myself particularly convinced of  the (often disparaging, or at least limiting) narratives concerning Latino/a immigration, health, culture, etc found in public discourse, I did not have the appropriate vocabulary or language to challenge these narratives either and to challenge others to think critically about them prior to taking courses in Latino/a Studies .

 Why is having a Program in Latino/a Studies at Duke important?

While Duke is a good institution, the same problematic systems of oppression found in society at large are reproduced at Duke, especially within the social milieu. What I learn within the classroom then equips me with the knowledge (or at least, the capacity to find the appropriate knowledge or to produce the necessary knowledge) to combat what is troubling about the social milieu not only at Duke, but outside of it as well.


Share |

Student, Biridiana Rodriguez

    • pic of birdie 2 horizontal

 After my first-year at Duke, I decided to pursue a career in education. My first LSGS course placed me in a Durham Public School completing service-learning requirements. There I discovered my talents in teaching and I began working towards my Early Teacher Preparatory Program requirements licensing me to teach K-6 in North Carolina. Post-graduation, I'm hoping to stay in Durham, North Carolina to teach at the upper elementary level. As an educator, it is crucial to teach to the individual and look for ways to differentiate my teaching to serve each unique student. For this reason, I must be aware of how their community and their background are shaping their education and lives. 

In all honesty, it's difficult to pick my favorite Latino/a Studies course. I didn't dislike a single one. But if I did have to choose, I would choose Introduction of Latino/a Studies with Professor Antonio Viego. Since day 1, the syllabus captured my attention because it included great books, including Juan Gonzalez's Harvest of Empire and Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Unlike many professors, Antonio Viego encouraged us to question everything we read. He didn't present us with hard evidence that we had to take or leave. He asked us to critically think of what what we read. From his class, I learned the push and pull factors of immigration and other Latino/a issues that are so many times kept in silence. 
Share |

Student, Dominique Villegas

    • dominique

1)      What was your favorite Latino/a Studies course?

My favorite Latino/a Studies course was Professor Milian's Memoir and Autobiography class. It was a small seminar setting and we profoundly delved into each book we read. 

2)      How did you become interested in 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 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. 

3)      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. 

4)      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!    

5)      How has Latino/a Studies changed and/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?"

6)      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 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.  

7)      What is some advice that 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! 

Share |

Student, Destani Bizune

    • destaniagain

What was your favorite LSGS course?
- My favorite LSGS course had to be the intro.  I initially took the course because I it had some of my favorite "buzzwords," race, gender, class.  I was only a sophomore and while I had taken a few Women's Studies and African/African American Studies classes, reading the course description for this class made me realize that I knew absolutely nothing about Latin@s.  I was like a little sponge, and I soaked up everything that Prof. Viego had to teach us.  This class taught me that I have to think beyond black and white in order to really make a positive impact on society.

What are your post-graduation plans?

- I am currently exploring the field of public health.  I always thought that I was going to medical school, but the courses offered in this certificate have shown me that in order to eliminate and reduce health disparities, we have to address more than just people's physical problems.  We have to attack the social determinants that prevent certain groups from achieving full health equity.  I hope to apply to school for public health in the coming year, and will hopefully put my undergraduate education to good use!

If you could give one piece of advice to younger students in the LGSG certificate program, what would it be? 

- I would say think outside the disciplines.  Sometimes we get so bogged down in trying to fulfill requirements that we become too narrow-minded.  I was so entrenched in particular area of study that it wasn't until this year that I finally branched into unknown territory, and my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner.  Each discipline has something unique and valuable to offer, and if it piques your interest take it!  So what if a class doesn't fit into your major perfectly; make it fit!  The great thing about fields like Latin@ studies is that they can be applied to almost any other area.  You just have to get a little creative, but when you do, unexpected things can happen. 

Share |

Graduating Seniors

CONGRATULATIONS to the following students who are graduating with a Certificate in Latino/a Studies in the Global South:
DESTANI BIZUNE, majoring in Women's Studies
STEPHANIE KENICK, majoring in Sociology with a minor in Education 
ANNA KIM, double-majoring in Political Science and Spanish
MICHELLE LOZANO VILLEGAS, majoring in Public Policy Studies
Read more about these students on our Student Profiles page. 

Tags: seniors
Share |

Anna Kim

    • anna kim

Anna (Ye Sul) Kim

South Korea

Trinity class of 2012

Major: Political Science, Spanish

Certificate: Latino/a Studies in the Global South

How did you get interested in Latino/a Studies?

I did Duke Engage in Tucson in my first year, which was one of the best choices I have ever made at Duke. Before then, I was not particularly interested in Latino/a Studies; actually, since I’m from South Korea where people hardly hear the term Latino/a, for me Latino/a Studies was nothing much more than one of the certificates I can pursue as a Spanish major. However, after Duke Engage in Tucson, during which I fortunately had a lot of precious experiences, especially concerning undocumented immigrants, within the Latino/a community there, I decided to study diverse aspects of Latinidad more profoundly. Now as majoring in Political Science and Spanish, I wish to contribute to political and legal realm of understanding Latinidad, and furthermore apply what I have learned not only to the United States but also to other regions of the world with ethnic identity conflicts.

What are the best experiences you have had at Duke?

I definitely recommend Duke Engage and Duke in Spain summer program. Both widened my perspective greatly and gave me opportunities to contemplate what I want and can do in the future and throughout my life. Those two summer programs made my summers at Duke worthwhile.

What are your goals/plans after graduation?

I’m planning to go back to South Korea and prepare for working in the diplomatic field.

Share |

Harvest of Dignity - Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF)

This year, four Duke students are enrolled in the Student Organizing School, run by Student Action with Farmworkers. SAF works with farmworkers, students, and advocates in the Southeast and nationwide to create a more just agricultural system. Since 1992, we have engaged thousands of students, farmworker youth, and community members in the farmworker movement. Through the Student Organizing School, SAF trains, mentors, and supports a small group of college students in NC to be leaders in the farmworker movement. Through campus organizing, the students support current policy and organizing campaigns to improve farm labor conditions. 

The campaign that the four students have decided to support this year on campus is Harvest of Dignity.  Harvest of Dignity is spearheaded by the Farmworker Advocacy Network, which is a coalition of North Carolina based organizations that works to raise awareness of farmworker issues and move to improve conditions via enforcement of current legislation and proposing new legislation.  Duke’s SOS team plans to raise awareness on campus by giving presentations, hosting events and fundraising throughout the year.  Get involved by supporting the Duke student organizers, check out SAF/FAN yourself to learn more, or contact the students directly at

Share |

Student, Danielle Nelson

    • Danielle Nelson

Danielle Nelson
Winston-Salem, NC
Trinity ‘14
Major: Undeclared-Spanish, Psychology
Certificate: Latino/a Studies in the Global South

How did you get interested in Latino/a Studies?
I have always had an interest in Spanish, but when I came to Duke, I began to explore immigration and other aspects of Latinidad in the United States. I am currently taking the Introduction course for the Latino/a Studies Certificate and it has challenged me to expand on my views of race, ethnicity, and identity in order to better understand myself and my role in society.

How are you involved with the Latino community at Duke?
At the beginning of my freshmen year, I got involved in GANO- Gente Aprendiendo para Nuevas Oportunidades, a student run ESL program for the local Latino community. I tutored as a freshmen and now I am the VP of Tutee Programming on the Executive Board. I am also the Publicity Chair for Duke Students for Humane Borders and through weekly meetings to discuss issues of immigration, education, and human rights with other students, I have become more aware of the issues surrounding the greater Latino community.

How does Latino/a Studies fit into your future plans?
I’m not exactly sure what I want to pursue, but whether it’s a career in medicine, psychology, or another discipline that I have yet to discover, I hope to use my background in Spanish and Latino/a Studies as a means of addressing the effects of language and cultural barriers that exist in the world today. Latino/a Studies provides not only an in depth examination of the Latino experience in the United States, but also encourages students to think critically about the socio-political implications of race and difference. Through structuring the courses around Latino studies, this certificate benefits both Latinos and non-Latinos by offering perspective and uniting all other cultural studies programs under a shared humanity. 

Share |

Michelle Lozano Villegas

    • Michelle Lozano Villegas

Michelle Lozano Villegas Los Angeles, CA Trinity ‘12

  • Major: Public Policy Studies

  • Minor: Spanish

  • Certificate: Latino/a Studies in the Global South

What are your goals/plans after graduation?

Grad school or law school. Perhaps a year off to gain some work experience.

What is the best class you have taken at Duke?

Many great classes:

  • PPS116: Policy Choice as Value Conflict Spanish
  • 106C: Issues in Education and Immigration in North Carolina
  • ICS 131E: Elections and Social Protest in Latin America
  • LSGS100: Introduction to Latino/a Studies History
  • 105S: American Immigration History 188A: Genocide in the 20th Century.

Can’t choose.

What is your favorite non-academic experience at Duke?

Breaks often mean road trips. I’ve gone up to DC for protests such as the 2010 CIR protest, and the Trail of Dreams march. Also went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Once I drove up to New York to watch the 2009 Gold Cup final (Mexico vs USA: 5-0). With that being said, make it a top priority to find a friend with a car. :)

Share |

Stephanie Kenick

Stephanie Kenick Tacoma, WA Trinity ‘12

  • Major: Sociology

  • Certificate: Children in Contemporary Society and Latino/a Studies

My career goals have changed a lot since my freshman year and I have been fortunate to have many resources available to me that have brought me to the right path. Freshman year, thinking I wanted to be an environmental scientist, I participated in the Focus Group which concentrated on environmental engineering and sustainable practices. By second semester, I wanted to be a teacher after taking classes with a service-learning component, an awesome opportunity that connects Duke students to the Durham community.

Sophomore year opened my eyes to issues Latinos face, especially educational and institu- tional barriers, so my career goals changed from being focused on individuals (teaching) to communityas a policy-maker. My Duke experience has been filled with opportunities I would have never imagined. I have done service abroad in Costa Rica with a community service group, Circle K International, and studied abroad in the wonderful city of Madrid, Spain. I have participated in an alternative Fall Break program in which a group of women traveled to New Orleans and helped rebuild homes devastated by Hurricane Katrina. I received funding through a Duke fellowship to conduct my very own research in the Durham Latino communities, an opportunity I am grateful and excited for, and I hope to participate in a domestic Duke Engage Program this summer. My involvement in Mi Gente and Duke Students for Humane Borders has ignited my passion for Latino issues and for helping the diverse communities that Latinos become a part of and/or create. It has allowed me to create my own community within the Duke campus. Duke isn’t perfect, but I have definitely been able to mold my experience according to what I want college to be like for me. Without a doubt, I have taken advantage of my Duke experience and been able to participate in some amazing projects.

All of this combined brings me to the path I am on and will continue on: law school for im- migration and education law and reform. I have bounced around a lot and Duke has allowed me to experiment and to pursue different tracks. The different paths I have taken have been bumpy (college isn’t easy!) but I am certain that at the end of the road the opportunities Duke provides, the various experiences I have had, and the incredible people I have met here will have made it all worthwhile. Duke has a lot to offer, you just have to explore!

Today, Stephanie teaches at a small Christian middle school in Albuquerque, New Mexico that is funded by private donations. She teaches World Cultures, History of New Mexico, and 6th and 7th grade Math. Her passion regarding Latinidad and Latino Studies helped her acquire the job. She is the only fluent Spanish speaker (aside from the part-time Spanish teachers). She hopes to serve as a figure of support for the people in the surrounding community. 

Share |

Shaoli Chaudhuri

    • Shaoli Chaudhuri

Shaoli Chaudhuri El Paso, TX Trinity ‘12

  • Major: Biology, English

  • Certificate: Global Health

What made you choose to Duke?

Until May of my graduation year, I had no intention of coming to Duke. In fact, I’d only applied because my mom thought the campus was“pretty.”When I finally visited though, I have to admit that the climate, the academics, the diversity all had me at hello. And honestly, I think the longer you’re at Duke, the more you come to feel it’s where you should stay, until you graduate of course.

What are your goals/plans after graduation?

I hope to get an M.D. and an MPH, then eventually work in pediatrics, particularly in immigrant and/or refugee communities, both of which are significant populations in North Carolina.

How are you involved with the Latino community at Duke?

I may not be Latina, but the Latino culture has been a part of my life since I moved to El Paso, a big border town, at the age of two, and in coming to Duke, I tried to ensure that that would not change. I am on the executive board of GANO, an ESL program for local Latinos, as well as Duke Students for Humane Borders, an immigrant rights advocacy group. My Du- keEngage Tucson/Mexico, which I highly recommend, only served to reaffirm my connection with the wide-ranging Latino community.

Share |