In a place where the Mexican-American culture is dominant, Chalupa means bingo, Gloria Anzaldúa is a cultural icon and the frontera runs, there is The University of Texas-Pan American, where the doors of education are opening to Mexican American Studies (MAS).
"Right now this is a relatively new program, so I think we have the momentum to promote it and attract students," said Dr. Sonia Hernandez, assistant professor of history and philosophy. "Hopefully our promotions will help move us forward."
The meet and greet gave students the opportunity to look into a major, minor or graduate certificate available in the MAS program. In addition, prospective students were able to meet professors who teach MAS courses.
"We want them to know that this is a student oriented major that will help them come up with culturally informed solutions for the problems of tomorrow," Hernandez said. "What they learn in this program will essentially help them in a variety of careers."
At the meet and greet, three students recited poems about Chicano life. Veronica "La Mariposa" Sandoval, a graduate student currently working toward a master's degree in fine arts-creative writing, performed her pieces "And I shouted Chicano" and "In my barrio there is jazz."
"I think this is a really great program and I wish it had been available to me," Sandoval said. "I like the fact that our culture can now be learned and taught in a university setting. It validates that our heritage is something we can study."
According to Hernandez, redesigning this program served several purposes: to make it more interdisciplinary and to teach a border institution, with a large population of Mexican descent, the knowledge of Mexican-American culture, literature, sociology, music, dance and traditions.
MAS faculty also host events that are open to all students such as the Latino/Chicano Film Series, where students have the opportunity to watch a cultural film, discuss it and connect it to life or community experiences. Students are also given the option to express themselves artistically with their writing, poetry, music and art.
Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities said that it is important for the University to validate itself with the study and celebration of Mexican-American literature.
"This program has great potential for us. We want it to grow with our outstanding faculty and talent," Guerra said. "We look forward to wonderful things."
For more information on MAS, go to http://portal.utpa.edu/utpa_main/daa_home/coah_home/history_phil_home/mex_amer_home.