Meet a roadrunner: Claudia García-Louis, Education Leadership and Policy Studies | UTSA today | UTSA

Claudia García-Louis studies AfroLatinx in higher education, minority populations, and underrepresented student groups.

(December 6, 2018) — Claudia García-Louis is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Political Studies at UTSA.

As a first-generation faculty member and researcher, García-Louis hopes to disrupt deficit thinking about communities of color, minority populations, and underrepresented student groups.

She recently received two professorships of Race, Ethnicity and Place (REP) and the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE).

García-Louis draws on over six years of student affairs experience to bridge theory and practice. She also works with students who conduct their own educational research.

We recently asked García-Louis about his current projects.

Tell us about your current research.

My goals are to expand the definitions of Latinity and Blackness in Higher Education, to make essential contributions to a newly formed line of research that explores the educational experiences of AfroLatinx and to conduct research that highlights Latinx heterogeneity and the experiences of Latina-mami-scholars.

I am currently working on two projects; the first is a national study focusing on the on-campus experiences of self-identified AfroLatinx faculty, staff, and administrators. This study is a continuation of an earlier survey I conducted that assessed the educational experiences of self-identified AfroLatinx students on the East Coast. I want to better understand how they manage belonging to a group and negotiate the feeling of belonging within the group.

My second project highlights the professional experiences of tenured Latina Mami scholars. Propelled by my need for academic survival and the legitimization of my intersecting identities – mom, Latina and permanent junior teachers – but also inspired by my desire to celebrate them, I co-developed the collective #latinamamischolars. Members are located in various institutions across the United States.

Data collection is ongoing and we use autoethnographic, narrative and grounded theory as methodological approaches. This project extends to my role as Co-Chair of NASPA’s Latinx Knowledge Community Research, where we deliberately decided to celebrate the stories of strength and resilience of women on the path to permanency, who consciously embrace both the motherhood and their professional roles as scholars.

Why did you decide to focus on this subject?

I strongly believe that research should push the boundaries of how populations have traditionally been assessed in exchange for innovative, complex, timely, and culturally relevant investigation. In my attempt to make a valuable contribution to the field of higher education, I have examined current socio-political trends and identified the need to better understand the youngest and fastest growing demographic group in the United States. United – Latinxs.

For too long, social scientists have attempted to quantify and evaluate Latinx experiences, but consistently fail to provide nuanced results given that their attempts only homogenize a highly diverse ethnic group. Qualitative methods provide us with an in-depth investigation of the “what” so that we can better understand the “why” and eventually develop best practices to adequately meet their needs.

My long-term goal is to become a blended methodologist to better understand their holistic experiences. Furthermore, I strongly believe that research can be me-research, therefore, informed by my intrinsic desire to make both a valuable contribution to the field and a moral obligation to counter deficit-based findings on minority populations. I seek to illuminate their experiences of resilience, tenacity, and survival through an asset-based perspective.

What impact do you hope your research will have?

I hope practitioners will read my research and use it to inform program development, student services, and best practices. If colleges and universities want to attract and retain Latinx faculty and students, they must do better to validate their experiences and meet their needs. My research highlights the multiple forms of capital each population brings with it to campus, it emphasizes intersections rarely assessed in educational research, and it challenges the social construction of race and ethnicity. .

My research provides an asset-based account of populations that have been marginalized, overlooked, and/or misrepresented by social scientists. I hope practitioners will use it to better understand how the racialization of Latinxes has invalidated non-Mestizos – directly impacting their success. Finally, I seek to broaden methodological approaches to be more inclusive of diverse ways of knowing, experiencing, and navigating campus life.

What’s one big thing happening in your field that people don’t talk about as much as they could?

We should move beyond the silos of primary and secondary education that have always plagued our profession. We are all on a similar educational journey, and therefore the conversation should be P-20 in nature and focused on a collaborative partnership that will improve student success throughout the pipeline. We also need to pay greater attention to the impact of socio-political factors on the mental well-being and sense of belonging of the most marginalized and targeted student populations.

The field of education has failed to develop curricula that encompass diverse student populations; we must do better. In less than a decade, racial and ethnic minorities will become the majority in schools across the country, but educational institutions have been slow to prepare. Attempts to diversify the curriculum to adopt the changes noted have been met with resistance and hostility at all levels, including federal and state politics.

With a growing Latinx population comes the responsibility to also understand intra-group Latinx racial diversity. I think these are the conversations we should be having on college campuses. UTSA is an HSI, we need to celebrate this identity, there is great richness in this title, and we need to help our students understand the value associated with an HSI. My research contributes directly to this topic – particularly the goal of expanding the definition of Latinity and recognize Latinx heterogeneity.

What advice do you give to students interested in entering your field?

Ask questions, ask lots of questions, and look for mentors. Follow your heart and be tenacious and stubborn. I didn’t think being a faculty member was possible for me – no one ever told me I could do it – but I persisted.

The biggest piece of advice I would give to anyone (whether they want to enter this area or any other) is that if you want to enter and the door is closed, look for a window. Follow your dreams and don’t accept no as an option. The road is long and hard so enjoy the journey.

What inspires you?

My family, my children, my identity as an immigrant-activist. It took me over 25 years to celebrate being a first generation immigrant woman of color in education. I was taught to assimilate, to fit in, not to stand out, and in my attempt to do so, I lost my identity.

There is incredible power in celebrating your roots and ancestry. I am inspired by the opportunity to help my students realize how incredibly beautiful their intersecting identities are and the unique gifts they bring with them to campus.

Janice G. Ball