When Pharr native Dr. Leticia M. Garza-Falcón returned to The University of Texas-Pan American campus on Oct. 30 to speak, it was like a family and college reunion rolled into one.
A UTPA alumnus, Garza-Falcón is currently an associate professor of English and director of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado at Denver. Invited to speak at the University regarding the formation of a women's studies minor at UTPA, Garza-Falcón acknowledged her mother, aunts, sister and other family members that were present as well as a number of former and current UTPA faculty members that inspired her to achieve her higher education goals in an era when this was difficult for many South Texas women.
Garza-Falcón described her memories of going off to college and leaving the support system of her family "as an emotional as well as intellectual journey."
Among the many females Garza-Falcón cited as helping build UTPA and serving as inspiration for her while an undergraduate in the 1970's were Sister Mary Schaeffer in the math department; Professor Hermila Anzaldúa, founder of UTPA's social work department; Dr. Sylvia Dominguez of the Spanish and Portuguese program; and Dr. Sylvia Lujan, the first Mexican-American administrator at UTPA and former director of the Learning Resource Center.
"We should honor the work of women educators and administrators who have helped to build UTPA to what it is today," Garza-Falcón said.
Garza-Falcón completed her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Texas at Austin with four areas of concentration: Chicano/a narrative and social history, 18th century British novel and social history, the Mexican and Latin-American novel and translation theory and practice. In 1988 she was awarded the Danforth-Compton Fellowship by the University of Texas at Austin and in 1991 the PEW Manuscript Completion Project, Tomás Rivera Center, National Institute for Policy Studies by the University of California (Riverside and Claremont). She has taught at all levels of public education institutions in California, Texas and Colorado.
Prior to her current position in Colorado, Garza-Falcón directed the Center for Multicultural and Gender Studies and was associate professor of English and Chicano/a Literature at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. There she helped develop the Women's Studies Program to the graduate level and founded the U.S. Ethnic Studies Program. During her visit to UTPA, Garza-Falcón also met with faculty to discuss the curricular and resource requirements needed to establish the women's studies minor at UTPA.
Garza-Falcon's most recent publication is her 50 page introduction to Elena Zamora O'Shea's 1935 novel, "El Mesquite: A Story of the Early Spanish Settlements Between the Nueces and the Rio Grande." She offered many themes in which to study women and examples of those she is currently researching. As she displayed photos of her own ancestors, Garza-Falcón said that there were and are many strong women in the Valley and encouraged those present to look at and record their own family history.
"There is knowledge out there - you give it power by recording it and creating an intersection of voices that is very powerful," Garza-Falcón said.
Sponsoring the presentation were the Office of the Provost and the Women Studies Developmental Planning Committee, chaired by Dr. Olga Ramirez, professor of mathematics at UTPA.
"Women's studies is a highly established program across the nation and we need to have a program of that nature here at UT Pan American to give awareness to the contributions that women make in many aspects of society despite the political and other types of issues that create barriers that women have to overcome to be contributors in so many areas," Ramirez said.
Ramirez said the committee is doing a lot of research on the kinds of courses and the types of topics to be included and obtained valuable input from Garza-Falcón, who was also instrumental in starting the women studies program at the University of Colorado at Denver. Ramirez anticipates the proposal for the minor will be ready by February 2004.