By Wandra Green // Fall 2012
What do you want your students to know about you?
I have hope in the current generation of college and university students. I came from humble beginnings with both of my parents’ families coming from Mexico in the 1920s as immigrant workers. My father’s family went to Omaha where my grandfather worked in the meatpacking plants. My mother’s family went to Texas, and then her family moved to central Nebraska to find agricultural work. That’s where my parents met, married and raised a family. I received my graduate degrees in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, and during my 36 years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I served in many roles, most recently as professor of Sociology and Ethnic Studies.
What is your goal for the program?
My goal for Latina/Latino Studies is to create a program with a strong academic curriculum, including a service-learning component, within the College of Arts and Sciences. We can only reach this goal with crucial and effective outreach to the Latino community. The program is meant to provide an opportunity for students to understand the history and growth of this population, especially as a midwestern and Kansas City experience. LLS is also for non-Latinos so they can better understand the contributions made by Latinos and also recognize the dynamic growth and changes presently occurring within the Latino community.
What’s the first lesson you teach your students?
I let students know that every one of them is an important contributor to the class, and I encourage and desire their input. I tell them I will learn as much if not more from them as they will from me.
How are you recruiting students for the program?
This first year I spent considerable time meeting with students and Latino student organizations on campus to talk about the program. I also met with various Latino organizations in the greater Kansas City community to begin building a communication and support network. This year, I plan to visit the high schools and middle schools in Kansas City that have significant numbers of Latina/Latino students, as well as visit the parents and families of these students.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not in class?
I used to have a small garden where I planted peppers—mild, hot and very hot—and tomatoes. The joy was watching the plants blossom and grow—most of the time. I get the same feeling of satisfaction when I see students nurture and grow their ideas in my classes.
What’s the most important takeaway for students?
It’s easy to remain in insulated technological spaces without interacting face-to-face with others. We can read about poverty, but volunteering at a soup kitchen helps us develop a better understanding of how poverty affects real people. Unless students deepen their understanding of issues like poverty, racism or sexism, they are less likely to become invested enough to want to create meaningful societal changes.