Associate Professor, Department Chair
Office: CPR 208A
Phone: (813) 974 7690
Fax: (813) 974 6455
My scholarly interests and research are in the areas of immigrant incorporation as it pertains to Latino populations in the United States. These interests mirror my own biography very closely. These days it is common to hear about research on the 1.5 generation-- children under the age of about 12 who come to the United States from other countries. I can relate to that experience as a daughter of return migrants to Puerto Rico; I was six years old when my family resettled there after some years in the mainland United States.
I have very clear memories of confronting a new culture as early as third grade. There were differences that were apparent at that early age, among them that I was a bicultural child integrating into a mostly Spanish-speaking context. Through my elementary and middle school years, as my peers learned more English and we were exposed to American culture through media, I became more Puerto Rican and perfected my Spanish.
These experiences with the US and American culture early on perhaps lie at the core of why I wanted to pursue my college education in the United States. As a member of a catholic, upper-middle class family, my options, as laid out by my parents, were to go to a Catholic university in the US that one could arrive at on one non-stop flight, or stay in Puerto Rico and attend a Catholic university there. That is how I ended up at St. Joseph's University pursuing a Jesuit education in which the motto, "service for others," would become more than a catchy slogan.
What does this have to do with Sociology? As a first semester sophomore Psychology major, I began to question the purpose of higher education. I missed my family in Puerto Rico-- my parents and younger siblings, and had felt like one year in the U.S. was enough for me. As I contemplated dropping out and returning home, the Dean of the College whose signature I needed to drop my classes persuaded me to give Sociology a try. He convinced me to take Introduction to Sociology and then come see him at the end of the semester. If I still felt like returning home, he indicated that he would sign off on my withdrawal. All it took was one semester of Sociology with Ms. Barb Fogarty, who I'll never forget, and I found what I still consider today to be one of my purposes in life... to shed light on issues of importance to individuals and society alike, especially when those issues and the inequalities they might lead to are borne in silence. I've come to believe that experiences that are silenced represent some of the most pressing societal problems that need to be brought into society's purview. My undergraduate theory professor said it best: the purpose of Sociology is to give theoretical constructs empirical validity. My interpretation of that is what drives my work today.
I am deeply interested in the experiences of im/migrants, particularly the emotions that are endemic to migratory journeys that, so often are taken for granted, but that can crash into the lives of individuals who find themselves leaving their countries for what they often think will be a better life. My experiences as a six year old arriving to a new place have laid out a research agenda in which I seek to understand what it is like for others who share in common the experience of migration, but, must contend with disadvantages due to race, gender, class, sexuality, and legal status. Having taken my U.S. citizenship for granted for a long time, my current work is on 1.5 youth who having been raised as Americans, find themselves in spaces in which they are not considered full members of the nation-state. The experience of having a foot in more than one world goes beyond place-- it encompasses the embodiment of contradictory statuses that can often lead individuals to endure difficult times. My hope is that my research and teaching can bring to light these experiences with the purpose of influencing social policies that might alleviate the burdens that marginalized populations carry with them when they are not recognized as full-fledge members of their countries.
Ph.D., Temple University, 2001
Maria Duenas, Lorna Gibson, Katie Kassner