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Perspectives on a Changing Texas

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A New Department Points the Way for the Nation

As the first of its kind in the United States, UT’s newest academic department — up and running since fall 2014 — is also the first to directly address a new social reality: the growing influence of Mexican American and Latino populations nationwide.

Fresh Perspectives

Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández is the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies' inaugural chair.

In Texas and elsewhere, students classified as Hispanic are enrolling in college in greater numbers than non-Hispanic white students. With an eye on this evolving demography, the new Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies aims to produce scholars to research and analyze the life, history, and culture of Mexican-origin and Latino populations.

Offering degree tracks in cultural studies, policy, and other areas, the department builds on the foundation of UT’s Center for Mexican American Studies, established in 1970.

“The integration of Latina/Latino Studies into an already stellar Mexican American Studies academic curriculum is designed to prepare students to be Latino-serving professionals in a nation with vastly shifting demographics,” says inaugural department chair Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández.

Faculty and students in the department are working to enhance understanding of the cultural, educational, political, and social dimensions of the Latino experience. It is expected that graduates will go on to careers in the nonprofit, education, social service, governmental, and academic sectors. Currently, 30 students major in Mexican American Studies. UT hopes to increase that number to 50 or more this year.

Jonathan Cortez, a native of Robstown in South Texas, will be among the department’s first graduates when he earns his BA in sociology and Mexican American and Latina/o studies this spring.

Fresh perspectives

Thirty students major in Mexican American Studies. UT hopes to increase that number to 50 or more this year.

His intellectual pursuits have reflected his interest in social movements, specifically in Chicana/o organizations that were engaged in educational reform in the 1970s, and their potential to influence current educational debates in the American Southwest.

Under a research grant, Cortez conducted comparative case studies between rural and urban societies within the context of education, politics, and relationships.

He also has worked as a research assistant for a postdoctoral fellow and served as editor-in-chief for an undergraduate research journal. With an eye on graduate school, he looks forward to adding to the discussion on the Mexican American and broader Latino experience.

“My involvement with this discipline has increased my respect for academia’s possibilities,” he says. “My aspiration is to mentor students of color while continuing to contribute to the ongoing and significant work that is being done. And I know I will enter the workforce much more informed about historical and contemporary issues concerning some of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S.”

Gift Button

You can help the new department:

  • Increase scholarships
  • Grow its faculty
  • Expand public programmng

Visit utexas.edu/cola/depts/mals/ to learn more.

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