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Thursday October 28th

From speaker series to minor: UNC Latina/o studies program celebrates 22 years

María DeGuzmán is a Eugene H. Falk Distinguished Professor of English & Comparative Literature at UNC and the founding director of the Latina/o studies program. Photo courtesy of the UNC Digital Literacy and Communications Lab.
Buy Photos María DeGuzmán is a Eugene H. Falk Distinguished Professor of English & Comparative Literature at UNC and the founding director of the Latina/o studies program. Photo courtesy of the UNC Digital Literacy and Communications Lab.

Members of the UNC community gathered over Zoom on Thursday for "The UNC Latina/o Studies Program – Past, Present, and Future," an event presented by 225 Carolina. 

The event reflected on the past 22 years of success and growth of the Latina/o studies program at UNC. 

Faculty members spoke about the evolution of the program over time. Undergraduate and graduate students also detailed their personal experiences with the Latina/o studies program.

What began as the UNC Latina/o Cultures Speakers Series in 1999 has grown into a program that offers an undergraduate minor and courses across many different departments at the University. 

María DeGuzmán, founding director of the Latina/o studies program, attributed the program’s immense growth over the years to the commitment shown by the University community. 

“The energy that the people at the University have shown the program has been tremendous,” DeGuzmán said. “There are faculty from many different departments associated with the program, and it has brought together people from many different programs. The students themselves also help to bring energy to the program.” 

Over the course of the event, DeGuzmán highlighted the significant Latinx demographics within the United States.

“18.5 percent of the U.S. population is Latinx — that’s over 60 million people,” DeGuzmán said. “Since they make up such a significant portion of the U.S. population, everyone should take the time to learn about Latinx history.”

Geovani Ramírez, a UNC postdoctoral teaching assistant professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, said all the hard work that DeGuzmán and other faculty members have put into the program over the years has led to its monumental growth.

“I have personally witnessed how much love and hard work Dr. DeGuzmán and other faculty have put into this program,” Ramírez said. 

DeGuzmán said the program has collaborated with Duke University, Western Carolina University and Florida State University despite the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented.

“The virtual format of our events has allowed audience members beyond the UNC community to get engaged and participate in these events,” Krysten Voelkner, a teaching fellow in the English and Comparative Literature department, said. 

Darian Abernathy, a recent UNC graduate, has taken classes within the Latina/o studies program. 

“The Latina/o studies program has been more than a minor," Abernathy said. "It has added a new dimension to my life. Learning was collaborative, and I looked forward to my Latina/o studies classes. We were able to ask questions and challenge each other. I was able to discover new worlds and new life.” 

DeGuzmán said she looks forward to the future of the Latina/o studies program. 

“We hope that it continues to grow and that we can attract more faculty from many different departments,” DeGuzmán said. “We hope it can sustain itself and help to serve young people of the U.S. today and in the future.”  

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