Kaitlyn Quigley, '09, became the first Loyola student to complete the Latin American and Latino studies minor during the fall 2008 semester. Growing up in Arizona, Kaitlyn had her first contact with people who speak Spanish in the first grade. In high school, she began to study Spanish formally, learning Spanish with people who spoke Spanish in the home for the first time her senior year. Kaitlyn became even more interested in the Hispanic world at Loyola, where she became the university’s first student to complete the Latin American and Latino Studies minor during the fall 2008 semester.
Regarding her Latin Americanist learning, she explains, “So much of what I learned in high school focused on the issues and thinkers of the United States and Europe, which are certainly very relevant and important, but not necessarily the entire picture. I like studying Latin America because it reminds me that there is more to the world than the traditional West and more ways of thinking than the dominate Western way. Although these views of other cultures were at first foreign to me, studying Latin America has made me think about how they are reality for many people. I definitely think that my perspective has broadened significantly.”
Kaitlyn’s two majors (Spanish and political science), gave her two critical methodologies, two complementary ways of looking at the world. “For example,” she says, “I took a course on American Political Thought that focused on the issues and theories that arose in forming the government of the U.S. I recognized many similar themes when reading Amalia, [a 19th-century nation-building novel by José Mármol] about disagreements between the Federalist and Unitarian political factions in Argentina.” And of course the Argentine reality became very real for Kaitlyn when she spent a semester at the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires.
After a semester in the Argentine capital, Kaitlyn spent a semester with Santa Clara University’s program in San Salvador. Both study-abroad programs definitely had an impact on her and she learned the first and primary tenet of a humane cross-cultural theory of communication: “being able to speak to people in their own language instead of assuming that they would learn how to communicate with me.” She offers an example:
“The relationships that I formed with Salvadorans were absolutely life-changing. I have an entirely new perspective on issues like war, neocolonialism and immigration that used to be just theory to me. To give just one example, I can't think about illegal immigration without considering Chema, a loving father of three who is planning to travel through Guatemala and Mexico and walk across the desert to enter the U.S. even though his knee has been injured since the war. I can't think about it without thinking about his wife, who spent her entire childhood in a refugee camp in Honduras and still has not adjusted to the freedom of living outside of the fences but is facing the very real possibility of spending the rest of her life as a single parent. And I certainly cannot think about it without thinking about Yenny, Carlos and Kelly, their children, who love to play soccer, watch ‘Drake and Josh’ on Nickelodeon, and study as much as they can in hope of earning scholarships to a university. Now that I really know and love people who were before just nameless and faceless others, I cannot help but question some things that I previously assumed.”
Kaitlyn’s perspective is truly hemispheric since besides living up close to Central Americans in El Salvador, she also previously had availed herself of service-learning opportunities associated with Latin American literature and civilization taught by the modern languages and literatures department. Local sites in Baltimore such as Education-Based Latino Outreach (EBLO) and the Hispanic Apostolate (now Esperanza Center) gave Kaitlyn the chance to get under the social skin’s surface to appreciate other realities, realities omitted on the evening news. This face-to-face contact with elementary school children and adults who were taking time out from their more-than-full-time jobs to learn English, Kaitlyn tells us, “opened my eyes to the wide variety of backgrounds of Latinos here and the issues that many of them, specifically immigrants, face.” It is precisely the trans-national Hemispheric Hispanic reality that makes life so complicated for many Latinos and Latinas, both north and south of the Rio Grande, that Kaitlyn now understands on deep and broad levels.
Kaitlyn will now be bringing this expertise to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, the next stage in her life after graduation. She will be volunteering in JVCs Southwest Division, either in California or Arizona, “work[ing] for structural change by serving individuals living on the margins of society,” according to the JVC Southwest Web site. This means she may be working with immigrants, but also with homeless veterans, or with people with addictions. What will Kaitlyn do after her year at JVC? Law School, of course.
When honors student Kaitlyn Quigley graduates from Loyola this May, she will have completed majors in Spanish and Political Science and her minor in Latin American and Latino Studies. On April 17, 2009, she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the most prestigious academic honor society in the United States.