Center for Latino Studies Announces Teaching Fellows
By Sheryl E. Taylor
UHD’s Center for Latino Studies (CLS) announces the inaugural cohort of 2020 Teaching Fellows in Latino Studies.
This new initiative is the brainchild of Dr. Bonnie Lucero, Director of the Center for Latino Studies.
“My ultimate goal is to provide current UHD faculty with incentives and support to develop new courses in Latino Studies,” said the Associate Professor of History. “This is a great opportunity to show the UHD community, especially current and prospective students, how the University is working to meet the needs of our diverse student population while ensuring broad representation across the curriculum.”
The six selected faculty members represent four colleges—College of Public Service (CPS), College of Sciences and Technology (CST), Marilyn Davies College of Business and the College of Humanities & Social Sciences (home of the Center for Latino Studies).
Lucero credits the collaborative efforts with Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, Dean of CPS and Dr. Akif Uzman, Dean of CST.
“In working with Dr. Lucero, we want to support the development of the new Latino Studies Degree. This is an important degree for the University of Houston-Downtown, which will provide a focus on multiple aspects of Latino culture,” said Schwartz. “As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, students should have the option of learning aspects of their culture and the cultures of others. This collaboration will allow specific classes in the majors of the College of Public Service.”
Three of the Teaching Fellows are funded entirely through the Center for Latino Studies, two STEM Teaching Fellows is a collaboration between CLS, CST, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and UHD SynergID and the Public Service Fellow is a funded by CLS and the CPS.
“An aspect of my role as director is to foster a more inclusive environment,” noted Lucero. “One of the ways I have set out to accomplish this goal is by expanding the courses and degree programs that are culturally relevant to our students. With more than 50 percent of our students identifying as Latino or Hispanic, Latino Studies offers the ideal gateway for advancing UHD’s inclusive excellence.”
Dr. Angelica Roncancio’s Latino-focused health and behavioral sciences course, “Latino Health in the United States” will introduce students to Latino health, health disparities, and health promotion efforts currently underway in the United States.
Dietrich von Biedenfeld’s business course “Commerce, Law and Ethics in Latin America” introduces topics related to international contracts, trade laws, culturally-specific negotiation principles existing and developing industries, endangered businesses, geographic- and culturally-dependent trends in supply cycle, and governmental, historical, linguistic, and political influencers in the region.
Dr. Joseph Westfall’s Philosophy course “Latin American Philosophy” is an upper-level introduction into the history of philosophical thought in, from, and about Latin America, including as it occurs within the United States.
Dr. Adriana Visbal’s natural sciences course by redesigning redesigns one section of the Biology Seminar Course (BIOL 4311) into a seminar course using a health disparities and scientific racism lens to understand cancer biology.
Dr. Jorge Tito-Izquierdo’s engineering course “Ancient Peruvian Construction” exposes students to construction engineering developed in Peruvian territory by different pre-Incas and Inca cultures.
Dr. Christal Burnett-Sánchez’s urban education course “Latinx Family, Community, and School Partnerships” will use a critical lens to identify, understand and develop ways of developing family and community engagement as well as home-school partnerships among the Latinx community.
Lucero also has steadily worked in creating new core courses focused on Latinos. Just last year, the Center secured approval to offer the new course “Intro to Latino Studies” as part of the core curriculum, for students to satisfy their language, philosophy and culture requirement. She also noted that in the near future students will have the option of a new Latino history sequence to fulfill their U.S. history requirements.
“With these important foundations in place, I want our students to be able to explore the Latino experience within their chosen major or discipline,” she said. “With six new upper division Latino Studies courses currently under development, Latino students will see themselves and their communities represented in curriculum across the University. And students, regardless of their background, will have the chance to learn about a group of Americans that has made—and continues to make—a huge impact on our society.
“I’m really proud of the direction our University is heading,” emphasized Lucero. “By developing a more inclusive curriculum, we are communicating to our students that they matter, their communities and their experiences matter.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.