(Written and Photos by Catherina Somai)
Spending a day with Distinguished Professor Edna Acosta-Belén was an amazing opportunity for me. She is the chair of her department (Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. Latino Studies), a teacher of the LCS 400/500 Interdisciplinary Research Seminar in Latin America, the Caribbean, and U.S. Latinos, the author of numerous books and is involved in many research projects. How does she manage to do all of this? I shadowed her for a day to find out.
After checking emails Professor Acosta-Belén met with the department's Office Administrator Ms. Librada Pimentel to discuss content and select artwork for the display that will be used at the University's undergraduate academic fair and open houses.
She then met with her graduate assistant and doctoral student, Ms. Carmen Caamaño, to discuss the progress of her dissertation on "Costa Rican Migrant Solidarity Networks." Carmen described some of the experiences from her interviews in Bound Brook, New Jersey where many Costa Ricans now live. During her research she also took a trip and interviewed families in the towns of Los Santos and Perez Zeledon where the migrants came from.
She met with graduate student Jamie Varriale to discuss her research paper on the topic of U.S. Latino musicians in rock bands and how issues of ethnicity, race, and marketing influence their participation in this particular genre. Professor Acosta-Belén gave Jamie advice on good sources that will help support her research.
Next a meeting with graduate students Xenobia Barrow and David Miljoner who are co-teaching the course LCS 100 Cultures of Latin America this semester. She gave them some feedback on a recent classroom visitation and they discussed strategies to get the students more engaged in discussions after PowerPoint presentations are made.
She met with the LACS faculty to discuss a draft of the department's Compact Planning and then met with Karen Ferrer-Muniz to discuss her research paper on Latino Leaders. Afterwards she sat down with Dr. Christine Bose, Chair of the Women's Studies Department to discuss some joint initiatives in the area of Gender and Globalization Studies.
She met with Jessica Caicedo, and undergraduate from UAlbany's Latino student organization, Fuerza Latina. Jessica wants to organize a seminar to educate students about an assassination of a pro-independence militant which took place recently in Professor Acosta-Belen's hometown in Puerto Rico. She gave Jessica suggestions for some good guest speakers for seminar.
After her meetings, I finally had the chance to sit and talk with Professor Acosta-Belén about herself. She grew up in Puerto Rico where she was an honor student at the University of Puerto Rico. She then transferred to the University at Albany where she received her B.A. degree. She completed her doctoral degree at Columbia University and began teaching here in the early '70's. She is pleased to see the way her department has developed and feels happy that she has also helped to bring many more minority (especially Hispanic) students and faculty to the University.
Being a distinguished professor is an honor to Professor Acosta-Belén: "I think it is an important recognition of some of the pioneering work that I and many other people have done to document different aspects of the previously neglected history and contributions of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos and Latinas to US society."