LALACS 2023 Senior Symposium Posted on May 10th, 2023 by

You’re Invited!

May 17th 5:00-6:30 p.m. in the Three Crowns Room. Join us in celebrating our seniors as they share their Capstone Projects. Cords and Stoles will be awarded by advisors. Great food. All welcome!

Sophia Artley

Title: An Analysis of Latin American Student Movements

Abstract: Latin America has a deep-rooted tradition of student movements in its history and culture.  Again and again, generations of young secondary and university aged students break the mold of the “apathetic youth” older generations describe. Students across the continent repeatedly use tactics of strikes, occupation of spaces, and the formation and use of national congresses to fight for both student-related and broader social issues. Yet scholars often overlook or fail to mention this important category of movement. My analysis of the last 105 years of student movements in Latin America discusses these repeated themes of protest methodology that have led to political and social change. This study includes case studies from four cycles: student movements in 1918,  the 60’s: Student Movements in the Face of Authoritarianism, the ‘80’s and 90’s: Post Dictatorship and Pro-Democracy, and Student Movements in the 21st century. Through a further exploration of specific case studies from each cycle of movement, this paper argues that Latin American student movements have had and continue to create social and political change 

Why did you choose to Major in LALACS? 

I chose to major in LALACS after taking Latin American Politics. I found LALACS to be the perfect blend between my two areas of academic interest: Political Science and Spanish. Living in the United States, our histories, culture, and politics significantly interact and influence each other. I wanted to better understand and explore Latin American culture and politics, and majoring in LALACS was a great way to do that!

Plans after graduation?

This summer I will be interning in Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Washington D.C. office. I will then be coming back to Gustavus for a 9th semester, and during that time I will be applying for Law School. 

Emily Gerencer

Title: Barriers to Healthcare for Latinx Women

Abstract: Adequate health care is difficult to access for Latinx women. According to the US Census Bureau, Latinx people account for 18.5 percent of the population in 2019 and are projected to account for almost half of the total population in the US by 2060. Despite population growth, there are prominent barriers to adequate health care for Latinx women. A factor of these hindrances is the uneven allocation of health care providers around the United States and their tendency to inadequately match the needs of their surrounding communities. Latinx physicians account to 4.4 percent of physicians in the United States (Castillo-Page, 2010). This displays an immediate discrepancy as 4.4 percent of physicians cannot service 18.5 percent of the total population. Many ethnic groups experience insufficient healthcare matching, but Latinx populations are important to study as their role in urban development is frequently racialized (Guhlincozzi, 2020. Sandoval & Ruiz, 2011; Price, 2012). Latinx immigrants have been moving to rural areas to find work, which poses an issue as most physicians are likely to seek out work in urban spaces (Guhlincozzi, 2020). The probability of a physician that matches the linguistic and cultural background of Latinx populations in rural and suburban areas is unlikely considering the percentage of Latinx physicians (Guhlincozzi, 2020). Latinx women, specifically, merit study as they are the primary seekers of health care services for their families, which services and affects a larger population of the Latinx community (Guhlincozzi, 2020, Kerner et al., 2001; Pope, 2001; Maas, 2016).   

Why did you choose to Major in LALACS? 

I chose a major in LALACS because I have always loved the classes, as well as the world view they have given me. 

Plans after graduation?

Staring this June, I will be in Nepal as a Peace Corps Food Security Volunteer in their agricultural sector.

Madelyn Hessian

Title: An Investigation of the Mental Health Needs of Latinx Undergraduates: Examining Prevalence, Perception, and Service Utilization in an Institutional Sample

Abstract: Latinx college students suffer from disproportionately high rates of mental health challenges, while simultaneously exhibiting significant disparities in utilization of mental health services compared to their white peers.  The intersecting stressors associated with being a young adult, an undergraduate student, and part of a marginalized group combine to substantially impact mental health outcomes as well as academic success. The needs of this at-risk population merit investigation which honors the nuanced experience of Latinx undergraduates. This thesis reports on and contextualizes a study conducted to obtain a better understanding of mental health prevalence, perceptions, and service utilization rates, using a sample from our own institution. It became clear that efforts to increase mental health literacy and the cultural congruity of care are essential to address these disparities and improve outcomes in Latinx student populations.

Why did you choose to Major in LALACS? 

Through LALACS, I had the opportunity to take so many diverse courses and have learning experiences that I otherwise would never have had, and it has helped me stay centered and well-rounded. My LALACS major made my education more interdisciplinary and helped me sharpen my communication and critical thinking skills. Beyond that, I was able to learn from a perspective that shifted outside of the United States, and that recognized cultural differences within the U.S. as well. Because of that, I have a far better understanding of how to engage in dialogue with individuals from all walks of life and be a better advocate for DEI work.

Plans after graduation?

I graduated Gustavus in December, and am currently taking a gap year (and a half) working through AmeriCorps in a local public health department. I hope to attend medical school in the fall of 2024. 

Ellen Hofstede

Title: Understanding the Interactions between the U.S. Operational Bureaucracy and Immigrants in relation to Immigration Enforcement Policies.

Abstract: This research study is aimed at deciphering the amount of influence the United States Presidential Administrations have over Immigration Enforcement Policies and how this affects the interactions between those working for the U.S. Operational Bureaucracy and Immigrants on the U.S.–Mexico border. I argue that when the legislation of immigration guidelines among United States presidential administrations prioritizes the rights of immigrants, the behavior of employees working for the United States bureaucracy shifts to match those guidelines, leading to better treatment of Latino immigrants. This paper will include a brief overview of how United States Immigration Law operates, Immigration Enforcement Policies from the Obama, Trump, and Biden Administrations, the relationship between U.S. immigration law and living space, and an impact analysis on Latino immigrants from these laws and policies. Qualitative data will be collected through one-on-one interviews to assess how U.S. Immigration Law influences the regulation process for federal agencies with a focus on the Department of Homeland Security. Selected interviewee’s will either have direct experience with United States Immigration Policy or are familiar with them; interviewee’s will be addressed through pseudonyms to ensure confidentiality.


Why did you choose to Major in LALACS?
I chose to major in LALACS because it aligned well with my studies in Geography and Spanish. Also, I’m always interested in learning more about Latinx cultures and languages.

Plans after graduation?
I have a job lined up as an energy analyst at Frontier Energy in Chanhassen, MN. I will be tasked with assisting clients, residential and commercial, with performing more energy efficient routines. I do hope to work with Latinx communities in either this line of work or as a volunteer in the future.

Sage Kiefer

Title: Perceptions of Gender in Mexico and the Resistance

Abstract: When looking at colonization through a feminist lens, it is abundantly clear that gender and enforced gender roles are tools used to abuse and oppress in order to gain power. Speaking simplistically within the heteronormative matrix, due to colonization and other various factors, machismo has become part of the dominant culture in Latin America. Though there has always been resistance as long as there is a power imbalance, I want to highlight specifically the joy around said resistance. I will focus on Mexico and how certain [artists/groups/communities] fight for women’s rights using ideologies outside the dominant western way of thinking. 

Art and action on the ground serve as a very important means to making change within a society. They can be considered “soft powers” since while they are not necessarily from people in power, they carry much weight in the opinions and thoughts in society based on its ideologies. Though there is certainly much more discourse about gender and transness brought into many conversations, it is not nearly talked about enough. I will take this research and funnel it into making art pieces in response to what I’ve learned to highlight certain issues.


Why did you choose to Major in LALACS? 

LALACS pairs nicely with my Studio Art and Spanish majors.

Plans after graduation?

After graduating from Gustavus next fall, I will study with my mentor in Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico, expanding on my LALACS capstone while there, and building up my portfolio to apply for art grad school, which will hopefully be in Spain. During this time I will also work on writing grants to open up spaces that make art accessible for specifically marginalized groups such as indigenous communities, LGBTQ+, women, etc. This summer, I will be working on networking and completing commissions in my art, as well as working at a gluten-free bakery.


Lisette Salgado

Title: Mental Health Challenges for First Generation Latinx Youth in College

Abstract: My research analyzes first generation Latinx youth who are also first generation college students. I am concerned with the mental health challenges faced by this community and the safe spaces that can be created in order for them to thrive. As part of my project, I conducted three interviews, which I transcribed and archived as qualitative data. Each interview provides a distinctive perspective into the issues I study.

Why did you choose to Major in LALACS? 

LALACS compliments nicely with my Psychology major.

Plans after graduation?

I am currently applying for positions in mental healthcare where I can use my bilingual skills.

Ashley Sosa

Title: Liminality in the Workplace

Abstract: I will conduct interviews to analyze liminality among Latinx population and its negative impacts on how they engage with their own culture and with dominant culture in the United States.

Why did you choose to Major in LALACS? 

I chose to major in LALACS because of the interdisciplinary classes that fulfill the LALACS major. I found that LALACS created a stronger understanding of various Latinx cultures and further developed my Spanish abilities.

Plans after graduation?

I’ll be attending the I-O Psychology Masters program at Minnesota State University Mankato.


Brynn Tarbell

Title: Linguistic Differences Between the Dialects of the Yucatan Peninsula and Buenos Aires

Abstract: This capstone project aims to identify the similarities and differences between the dialect of the Yucatan Peninsula in southern Mexico and the dialect of Buenos Aires, in Argentina. I analyze written text and speech in documentaries that highlight respective regional gastronomy, which was chosen as a common ground for comparison. Through the analysis of these texts, I study syntax, lexicology, and phonology. The findings share unique traits identified in both dialects in written and spoken form.

Why did you choose to Major in LALACS? 

I chose to major in LALACS because it was a great mixture of both my Sociology/Anthropology and Spanish majors, and I wanted to learn more about Latin American cultures. 

Plans after graduation?

I will be working as an International Sales Specialist at PMT Corporation in Chanhassen, MN. 

Michaela Woodward

Title: Our Bodies Were Not Built For Them: Young Adult Literature and the Latina Bildungsroman

Abstract: In this paper, I utilize two recently published young adult novels (“The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo and “How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love With the Universe” by Raquel Vásquez Gilliland) to study how contemporary Latina authors shape coming-of-age narratives. Through contextualizing these novels within the literary canon of the traditional bildungsroman, the young adult genre, and indigenous storytelling, I compare and contrast these works to make a case for the characteristics of the contemporary Latina bildungsroman.

Why did you choose to Major in LALACS? 

Along with supplementing my Spanish major, I was interested in studying LALACS because of the diverse perspectives and topics that are involved in cultural studies. LALACS has allowed me to study subjects that I would not have been able to otherwise, and to do so in a way that applies to my other fields of study. 

Plans after graduation?

I will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to study in the Coordinated MA in Translation and MLIS in Library Science program.


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