On May 14th, 2016, the Institute for Latino Studies (ILS) celebrated 13 students graduating as majors during the Latino Studies Certificate Ceremony. These students achieved a Supplementary Major (a 24-credit program, which requires a gateway course, capstone/practicum course, and 18 credits/6 additional Latino Studies courses) or a Minor ( a 15-credit program, which requires a gateway course, capstone/practicum course, and 9 credits/3 additional Latino Studies courses). Beyond these 13 students, ILS Co-Director Luis Fraga commented on the more than 500 students per academic year who ILS reaches through classes, some of whom also attended the ceremony: "It was a blessing to also meet several graduating students and their families who have benefitted from our work at ILS, even though they were not ILS majors and minors. They came to our open house and expressed their appreciation for all ILS has done to enrich their undergraduate experiences at ND."
Honorary doctorate recipient Arturo Sandoval, an internationally acclaimed jazz and classical musician and composer who also performed Ave Maria at the University Commencement Ceremony, spoke at the ceremony. He encouraged attendees, many of whom come from immigrant backgrounds, saying, “We came here with empty pockets, and hearts full of hope.” Sandoval has received 10 Grammy Awards, six Billboard Awards and an Emmy Award and is a 2013 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this nation’s highest civilian honor. Born in Cuba, Sandoval started playing the trumpet at age twelve and soon began to follow the music of jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie. His bands in Cuba received critical praise worldwide, and he was the nation’s outstanding instrumentalist from 1982 to 1990. He defected to the United States with his family in 1990 and was granted U.S. citizenship nine years later.
ILS Co-Director, Tim Matovina commented, "What inspiration Mr. Sandoval brought to all of us. In telling his migrant story, he honored the sacrifice of the families and students whose educational dream and Notre Dame graduation we celebrate." Co-Director Fraga also expressed admiration that "he and his family's life journeys represent the best of what our country can be when it is welcoming to all."
Professor Karen Richman, organizer of the event, described how the multimedia celebration included “creating paño art, rousing and familiar Latino music, a slide show, an attractive printed program, the students’ personal statements and Justice Sotomayor’s memorable words. It was all brought to a stirring climax with the pure sounds of Arturo Sandoval’s trumpet, playing our national hymn, which I heard as a sincere ode to immigrants yearning for dignity and opportunity in the United States of America.”
Latinos are at once the oldest and the newest immigrant population in our country. They are expected to account for over 25% of the U.S. population by 2050, and even now they are one of the most significant factors for social change in our nation. The students being recognized at the ceremony have begun their journey toward discovering answers for the future.
Of her own future, graduating student Jessica Zita Zic described the influence of ILS on her career: “I was instantly drawn to the community, classes, professors, and opportunities to engage with the Latino community in South Bend. Adding Latino Studies to my Neuroscience and Behavior major has been one of the best decisions of my college career. Through my Latino Studies coursework I started volunteering at El Campito, a local bilingual preschool. This experience has inspired me to pursue service in Houston next year at Casa de Esperanza de los Niños, a foster home for young children in crisis. Ultimately my goal is to go to medical school and become a physician serving in medically underserved communities. My Latino Studies experiences have helped me discover my passions, broaden my knowledge, and prepare me for my future beyond Notre Dame.”
Hannah Jean Petersen, graduating ILS student, was also glad she chose to be a part of ILS: “Developing a critical and intellectual eye for the past and current Latino landscape is vital for the progress of the US. Thank you to the Institute for Latino Studies for providing me with the big questions, spaces of academic rigor, and immense support. I cannot wait to use what I've learned in ILS while participating for two years in Jesuit Volunteer International in Tacna, Peru. I want to keep learning as I embark in the world.”
During the course of their studies at ILS, these graduates have been a part of a community of scholars who have deep knowledge of the U.S. Latino experience. These students will bring this insight with them into future employment, places of worship, and wherever they go in years to come. In the words of Justice Sotomayor, as Professor Richman shared during the ceremony to highlight the purpose ILS serves, “Every people has a past, but the dignity of a history comes when a community of scholars devotes itself to chronicling and studying that past.”
Special thanks to Katrina Linden (who graduated with a supplementary major) and Xitlaly Estrada (class of 2017) who helped create the brochure, slide show, music playlist, and helped in myriad ways to make the celebration a success.