Juan Bruce-Novoa Lecture Series Highlights the Chicano/Latino Experience in America
APU’s Department of Modern Languages and Sigma Delta Pi honor society is hosting a lecture series every Tuesday night for APU faculty to speak their experiences with Latino and Chicano culture and encourage discussion among students.
The series is a part of an ethnic studies class taught by Dr. Marcela Rojas and consists of a faculty member giving a talk about Chicano/Latino culture followed by a question and answer session to encourage discussion. "We are just talking about our own experience with the culture, so that's very interesting for the students," Rojas said.
According to Rojas, Sigma Delta Pi, the Spanish honor society that recently received an award for being the best of 600 chapters, started the lecture series to promote the Chicano/Latino culture. She says that part of the purpose of the series is to clarify the meaning of the term Chicano culture and explore why people from other countries come to the United States.
The lecture series is based on the work of Juan Bruce-Novoa who was a professor of Latin American and U.S. Chicano/Latino literatures and cultures, Film Studies, and Critical Theory at the University of California Irvine until his death in 2010. He published one of the first works about Chicano culture, Chicano Authors: Inquiry by Interview, which is the book Rojas uses for her class.
"Juan Bruce Novoa says is in (the word) Mexican-American, the Chicanos are the hyphen because they are in the middle," Rojas said, "We think people come here because they are poor, but what's the story behind? What are they leaving behind? What's the struggle? That is the kind of conversation we want to have with the students.”
Rojas’s Chicano/Latino experience class only has five students, but each lecture presentation has been filled to capacity in the Wilden Gallery. Last week Dr. Juan Guerrero spoke about his latest novel about a boy who emigrates from the Dominican Republic to New York and has to deal with the adjustment to American culture.
The series also spotlights the ethnic studies program, an 18 unit minor. The minor, according to Rojas, is focused on helping students develop a greater understanding of racial and ethnic diversity in the United States and providing students of culturally diverse backgrounds at APU with an academic program that addresses their heritage and enhances their self-awareness.
Dr. Patricia Andujo, associate professor department of English, says the program began in 2005 by Dr. Pam Christian after many students expressed an interest in diversity and ethnic issues. "Many people in their hearts or in their minds are open to diversity, but they are not knowledgeable about it…this minor allows them to pair what's already in their heart with knowledge," Andujo said, "You can believe in diversity, but you really cannot truly honor diversity if you don't know anything about other ethnicities."
Business management majors senior Aaron Accosta and junior Tessa Caudle are both enrolled in Rojas’s class and think the discussions could be more in depth after the presentations. "I don't think people ask questions enough, usually it is just people in our ethnic studies class that ask questions. I would like to see more involvement with the rest of the people," Accosta said.
Caudle added more awareness is needed about the program’s existence in order to expand the knowledge and understanding of diversity among APU students. "In class we've had really good discussions, but at the same time not many people know about this program,” Caudle said, “so if nobody is taking advantage of the program that's there, then how can you expect a conversation to spark?"
Andujo says the lectures bring in students who have no knowledge of the program. “Students (who attend the lectures) are enrolled in the class without knowing it,” Andujo said, “These discussions are discussions that would go on in her (Rojas’s) course.”
Rojas says diversity education is becoming more important, especially in light of the recent news that 51 percent of APU students are non-white. "We need to talk more about these kind of things and learn about the diversity we have on campus that is so glorious and so fantastic," Rojas said.