This fall, three leaders from the Notre Dame community have been appointed Faculty Fellows of the Institute for Latino Studies. Assistant Professor of Mathematics Juanita Pinzón Caicedo, First Year Academic Advisor Leonor Wangensteen, and Katy Walter Lichon of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education join a distinguished group of scholars.
ILS Director Luis Fraga explains, “Our history of bringing Latino Studies to a diverse segment of students, faculty, staff, and community members continues within the limitations of what can be done given COVID-19.”
ILS Faculty Fellows are faculty, professors of the practice, and instructors who demonstrate a commitment to the Latino community in their research, teaching, and mentorship at Notre Dame. These three scholars join a group of 30 faculty representing a wide range of disciplines. Director Fraga states, “Much of their research --and in this case the mentorship and advising of undergraduate and graduate students --contributes to understanding the challenges our nation faces today and has faced since its founding.”
For Assistant Professor Pinzón Caicedo, it’s the opportunity to mentor Latinx in academia, especially mathematics, that excites her about becoming a faculty fellow. “Being a faculty fellow at the Institute of Latino Studies (ILS) will help me prepare future Latinx leaders in STEM and will provide me with a platform to become an excellent mathematician and Latinx role model,” she says.
Pinzón Caicedo specializes in topology, the study of the properties of “deformed” objects with continuous spaces that have four or fewer dimensions. The topology program at Notre Dame is nationally renowned and she is excited to be a faculty member of the College of Science.
By becoming a fellow, Pinzón-Caicedo is exploring one of the many social justice opportunities that attracted her to Notre Dame. “Something I can do that will have a tremendous impact for women and underrepresented minorities in science is to be a really good mathematician,” Pinzón-Caicedo said in an interview after joining the College of Science. “Becoming a professor at the University of Notre Dame has an impact not just for me personally, but also for people who are going to see me in this role.”
Engineering can also be a tough field to break into for first gen students. At Notre Dame, Leonor Wangensteen has seen these struggles firsthand in her role as a first year academic advisor. She was born in Berkeley, California, grew up in South Bend and is herself an alumnus of ND. “I mentor and advise many students, Latinx and beyond, and I am always delighted to encourage student engagement with the Institutes' cultural and scholarly opportunities, courses, events and speakers“ Wangensteen says.
Wangensteen was recently presented with the 2019 Dockweiler Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising. A Double Domer, Wangensteen received her B.A. in Spanish literature and Fine Arts in 2003, and an M.A. in Iberian and Latin American Studies in 2009. She worked as an instructor in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures for several years before joining the Center for University Advising in 2013.
Her interest in diverity and equality led her to appointment as Director of Undocumented Student Initiatives. In this role, Wangensteen organizes “UndocyAlly” workshops for staff and faculty, develops networking opportunities for undocumented students, and works to make student programs and opportunities more inclusive.
Wangensteen has also ventured into pedagogical writing, and currently has two book chapters in the works: “Training for cultural competence and advising across difference,” forthcoming in October 2022 in Comprehensive Advisor Training & Development, 3rd Edition, NACADA; and “Emerging Issues in Advising LGBTQ Immigrant Students,” forthcoming October 2021 in Advising LGBTQ Students in the 21st Century, NACADA.
At Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, better known as ACE, Katy Walter Lichon has worked to improve support services for Spanish-speaking students. She directs the English as a New Language Program as well as the Catholic School Advantage initiative, roles for which she focuses on multilingual learners in Catholic Schools.
Teacher education is another focus of her job, and she is also a faculty member with ACE Teaching Fellows. Her pedagogical journey has led her to teach in a variety of places, including Atlanta, Chicago, and Chile. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Philosophy from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, specializing in linguistics.
Along with ILS director Dr. Luis Fraga, Walter Lichon was a key founder of the two-way immersion program at Holy Cross School in South Bend, which is now in its fourth year. Introducing innovative curriculum that is both inclusive of cultural diversity and rewarding of language skills brought by Latinx Catholic students in dioceses across the nation, better serves the entire parish.
ILS has been a thought leader and supporting partner for Holy Cross School since 2014. In contrast to dwindling enrollment five years ago, the school now boasts a waiting list as its student population is bursting with Latino, white, and African American children from across South Bend.
“My work in serving Latinx students in Pre-K - 12 Catholic schools and particularly the formation of dual language schools designed to honor and bolster home language and culture, can only be strengthened by learning alongside scholars dedicated to advancing the future of Latinx communities.“ says Walter Lichon. “I am committed to understanding the ways in which embracing, educating, and empowering Latinx students in schools can transform communities.”
These fellows ensure ILS continues to serve as a premier teaching and curricular institute at Notre Dame, and as a model and leader among institutes of its kind across the nation.