• February 26th, 2024
  • Monday, 05:57:22 PM

Reflection on Castro Professorship: ‘It Gives Me So Much Hope For The Future’


Dr. Nancy López, Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico was the 2023 keynote speaker for the 2023 Richard T. and Virginia M. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professorship created by Metropolitan State University of Denver’s, Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies. /La Dra. Nancy López, Catedrática de Sociología de la Universidad de Nuevo México, fue la oradora principal de la Cátedra Richard T. y Virginia M. Castro 2023, creada por el Departamento de Estudios Chicanos y Chicanas de la Universidad Estatal Metropolitana de Denver. (Foto: Chanel Ward/El Semanario)

 

By Chanel Ward

 

 

Metropolitan State University of Denver and the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies welcomed Dr. Nancy López, Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico, to the 2023

Richard T. Castro and Virginia M. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professorship last month at St. Cajetan’s Event Center on the Auraria Campus.

 

This year’s event was titled, “Del Peligro Al Poder: Navigating the Obstacles to Critical Truth in Education” and was the second year that Virginia Castro’s name was included in the 26-year running professorship.

 

It gives me so much hope for the future and what could be different when we learn from our past and look at our present and imagine different possibilities for the future.”
Dr. Nancy López

 

El Semanario spoke with Virginia M. Castro who has diligently supported the professorship since its’ inception. “We’re working on becoming a 501c3 and have been volunteering on the campus. I started in 2015 and I just came to one of these professorships and it was a good thing, because Rich was interested in everything. There really wasn’t hardly any topic that wouldn’t fit with the Castro professorship,” said Castro.

 

Students from Jefferson High School and West High School attend the 2023 Richard T. and Virginia M. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professorship hosted by Metropolitan State University of Denver’s, Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies. (Photo: Chanel Ward/El Semanario)

 

Event attendees included community members, professors, students, staff and more noticeably, high school students from both Jefferson and West High School’s. In the spirit of Castro, the event is well-known for its’ inclusivity and community support.

 

When asked why the presence of the high school students were important at this year’s ceremony, Dr. López quickly replied, “they are our leaders and they teach me.” The mother, of now adults, accredits her own children for being great teachers to her throughout their lives, starting as young as elementary school, and says that they are who she continues to learn from.

 

“The youth really can offer fresh insights, they have a lived reality that is very different than growing up in the 1970s, like I did,” expressed López. “They actually can be the beacon of hope and light, a new way of understanding and building community and compassion.”

 

Dr. López was born to Dominican immigrant parents as the eldest of five siblings. Growing up in the Baruch Public Housing on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, NY, with Spanish being her first language, lit a fire in her to not only take her education to the next level, but her work with community and specifically social justice. Her own parents didn’t have the privilege of an extensive education beyond the second grade and through this she was able to spearhead many groundbreaking works in the educational field, specifically around race and class after graduating from Washington Irving High School, a de facto racially segregated public vocational school for girls, one of the larger vocational schools as well as participated in equity-focused and federally funded programs like Upward Bound and HeadStart.

 

Dr. López co-founded and directs the Institute for the Study of Race and Social Justice, is the founding coordinator of the New Mexico Statewide Race, Gender, Class Data Policy Consortium and has written books around these subjects, her latest was the topic of this year’s dialogue. Her insights include intersectionality, addressing inequalities of social outcomes in education, healthcare, housing, employment and development, while finding contextualized solutions to advance social justices.

 

The multi-day event began with a student-led dialogue with Dr. López on Intersectionality, Critical Race Theory and Applications. She also met with a student’s during a meet and greet with the Center for Multicultural Engagement and Inclusion Equity Peer Leaders and dialogue on Dr. López’s book, Hopeful Girls,Troubled Boys, Race and Gender Disparity in Urban Education.

 

Dr. Nancy López, Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico speaks to guests at the 2023 Richard T. and Virginia M. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professorship. (Photo: Chanel Ward/El Semanario)

 

Committee Co-Chair of the Chicana/o Studies Department, Chalane Lechuga, Ph.D., began the event by welcoming Dr. López on behalf of the Department, but also gave an in-depth acknowledgment to the land that not just the campus itself sits on, but the entire State of Colorado as the traditional territories and ancestral homelands of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Nations. Following Lechuga, Provost Ad Interim and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Marie T. Mora Ph.D., welcomed Dr. López to the stage, where she was greeted with a round of applause and an engaged crowd throughout her presentation. A community dialogue with the attendees followed, and those brave enough to stand up and ask a question were given a copy of her book.

 

“It gives me so much hope for the future and what could be different when we learn from our past and look at our present and imagine different possibilities for the future. So, this was a beautiful opportunity to learn about the other speakers, to learn about the history of Richard and Virginia Castro and the legacy of struggle for justice and the joy that comes with it,” said Dr. López during a discussion with El Semanario.

 

“First of all, this opportunity is such an honor, but also the way in which it was done in community, is a blessing and it’s also a model for us of how things could be different if we work together,” Dr. López gratefully expressed.

 

 

Chanel Ward is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.

 

 

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