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Latino/a Scholar's Corner

Latinx/a/o
September 17, 2015

Buenos Dias Colegas!

The Latino/a Knowledge Community strives to support the research and share the stories of colleagues who are completing scholastic work, especially focusing on Latino educational issues. If you want to have your research or story shared, please contact Dr. Taryn Ozuna Allen at [email protected] and Dr. Mayra Olivares-Urueta at [email protected].

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For our first Latino/a Scholars Corner, we will be highlighting the scholastic work that our colleagues are doing across the world. Our first post comes from Nydia Sánchez. Nydia is a Research Assistant and Doctoral Candidate in the Higher Education program at the University of North Texas.

What initially interested you in studying Latinos in higher education?

My commitment to college access and equity for Latino students was written in the stars the day my little brother was born. I am the oldest of five children and the first in my family to go to college. While my mother cultivated the importance of education in my family, I became their mentor, advocate, and guide for higher education, especially after being named a Gates Millennium Scholar. Once I began to read through research about students like myself, I decided I wanted to join the conversation. I wanted to write, to research, and to speak about Latinos in higher education.

How has your research evolved over time? What is a finding you did not expect?

My early research focused on exploring Latino sibling relationships and family dynamics (Sánchez & Chen, 2012; Sánchez, 2013) during the college years. The most unexpected finding from my research emerged very early in the process during the review of literature. There were only a handful of studies that focused on the experience of siblings in college. It was very exciting for me to know that my research was pushing boundaries. Today, I continue to explore the nuances of these relationships in my work with a focus on community and geographical contexts. Born and raised on the U.S-Mexico border, I am particularly interested in learning more about the informal educational practices used in border-towns.

What motivates you to continue writing and pursuing this line of work? 

The more I read and learn, the more I feel compelled to write and share. I read an article, two articles, and it is like catching up on a conversation that has been going on without me for years. Then, I read the recent work of a colleague from my hometown (see Hernández, 2015) and I think, “Wow. We’re doing it. We’re here.” I never expected to be a scholar or to travel across the country to present my work. Most academic spaces were not created with individuals like me in mind. Beyond the contributions of my research, I write because there is a need for me, as a border-town Latina scholar, to write. 

How can your research influence the work of student affairs professionals?

My research can inform student affairs professionals’ decisions about how to structure events, programs, and opportunities to improve on-campus student support services and off-campus college outreach and recruitment. Understanding the ways Latino students and families develop college knowledge and learn to navigate educational transitions within their own family and community contexts is crucial to developing culturally relevant policies and practices. Unsurprisingly, my research has the most significant implications for parent and family programming, however, it can also inform the ways various campuses make use of service-learning, work-study programs, and commencement ceremonies.

Do you have final words of advice?

Belonging to a diverse network of individuals who support and encourage your efforts can make all the difference to your professional and scholarly experience. Seek out opportunities to foster connections with others outside your institution and find ways to cultivate your talents, qualities, and skills – as a scholar, a student affairs professional, an administrator, or scholar-practitioner. I am fortunate to have been selected to participate in the Graduate Student Fellows Program for the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education in 2013, the Early Career Faculty Program for the Association for the Study of Higher Education in 2014, and the Emerging Scholars Program for the American Educational Research Association in 2015. Through these programs, I have met nationally renowned scholars who have helped me develop and refine my research agenda. I have also connected with colleagues whose insights have shaped my academic trajectory. I highly encourage you to check out the programs listed above and to look beyond those programs for other such opportunities.

References 

Hernández, E. (2015). #hermandad: Twitter as a Counter-Space for Latina Doctoral Students. Journal of College and Character16(2), 124-130.

Sánchez, N. C. (2013, March). Latino parent involvement: Insights from a community-based advisor. Program presented at the meeting of the NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, Orlando, FL.

Sánchez, N. C., & Chen, P. (2012, November). First-generation consejeros: The influence of siblings on Latino student’s college choice and enrollment. Paper presented at the meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Las Vegas, NV.