Melissa Zavala ’19

Melissa Zavala '19 Chicana Major

I decided to be a Chicana/o-Latina/o major after my first class with Professor [of History] April Mayes where I was given texts from the perspectives of those who are erased in the history of Latin America.

This then fueled my interest to learn more about Latinx folks within the United States and the history that is not focused on when growing up.

My initial desire of being a biology major changed but I am still determined to go to medical school as a Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies major because I want to focus on the inequity communities of color face within the healthcare system due to the lack of resources and cultural sensitivity within the medical field.

René Valenzuela ’20

Rene Valenzuela

I chose to major in Chicanx-Latinx studies because of the community, the rigorous courses, and the avid presence of faculty. As an intercollegiate major, it is pieced together by the strength, knowledge and support from faculty, staff, and students across the colleges. Courses within Chicanx-Latinx studies allow you to feel invested in the learning of your classroom community - not just in your own experience. I bounced around five other academic departments before I committed to CLS. The beauty of Chicanx-Latinx studies is that I’ve been able to retain my interest in all those departments – sociology, psychology, politics, Spanish, and economics – all within this interdisciplinary major. 

What I love most about this major is the real-world application that it has. The major has not only enhanced my critical thinking, but it has also encouraged me to be more reflective about my own experiences and surroundings. I feel privileged that CLS has exposed me to material I once never knew I longed for. Yet, I’ve found the space to reflect, grow, heal, and empower myself all through the theories, knowledge, and testimonios found in CLS. The last thing I want to share is that Chicanx-Latinx studies as a discipline is committed to engaging in scholarship with and for the community. This has been crucial for my experience because this has enabled me to bridge the knowledge I learn and create in the classroom directly to the communities I am most invested in. 

At the mid-point of my sophomore year, I was awarded the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship to conduct research on the evolving dynamics between two sister-cities that straddle the Mexico-U.S. border. This opportunity would not have been possible without the creative space that Chicanx-Latinx studies gave me to explore my research interests, envision a long-term project, and identify faculty mentors to guide my endeavors. Through this fellowship, I have been able to present my research at different conferences and engage with other undergraduate students across the country who also aspire to pursue a Ph.D. Thanks to the support from my peers and the faculty within the major, I will be spending my last summer of college in Arizona where I will be conducting research for my senior thesis and working with an internship along the Mexico-U.S. border. All of this has been made possible by my participation as a Mellon Mays fellow. But I first credit Chicanx-Latinx studies for providing a nurturing home that has given me the space to develop this long-term research project.

Diana Rodriguez ’20

Diana Rodriguez '20

Switching out of a STEM major (neuroscience) over to Chicanx Latinx studies has been probably one of the easiest and best decisions I've made at Pomona. I haven't met a more welcoming faculty than those attached to this department. Learning about my background and my people, while being taught by professors who look like me or share one or more of the identities that I hold, has made the journey so much easier. My people's histories weren't taught to me in an academic setting while growing up. By majoring in Chicanx Latinx studies, I am able to uphold the legacy of those who fought for us to be represented in these institutions.

Every single professor in this department cares about and looks after you! Get to know all of them if you can. Whenever there are department convivencias, it becomes and feels like a huge family reunion. Ask the professors about their research, it is what they love talking about the most. The department doesn't and won't allow you to forget that you aren't alone.

One of the classes in the department that is a must-take would have to be Professor Gilda Ochoa's (Re)Claiming Voices in Latinx Communities. The final project for the class consists of us giving voices to people of our choice through testimoniosplaticas, or oral histories. It is, by far, the best class I've ever taken at Pomona.

Julián Villaseñor '21

Julián Villaseñor

Coming from an immigrant family from Michoacan, Mexico, but being raised in Chicago, Illinois, there is a lot about my culture and history that isn’t addressed or talked about. Being in spaces like Pomona allow me to put these experiences into words. Furthermore, because Chicanx Latinx studies covers the wide range of perspectives and histories of all Latin America and the relationship with the United States, expanding my worldview as well -- I am actively learning about experiences different than my own as a Chicanx/Mexican-American. I also chose to major in CLS because of how interdisciplinary the major is; CLS is a blend of linguistics, history, literature, anthropology, sociology, education, and so much more. Furthermore, because Chicanx Latinx studies covers the wide range of perspectives and histories of all Latin America and the relationship with the United States, expanding my worldview as well -- I am actively learning about experiences different than my own.

I enjoy the close relationships I have been able to foster with my professors; my ID1 course, the introductory writing course all Pomona first-years are required to take, was Chicanx Latinx Los Angeles with Professor Gilda Ochoa. Prof. Ochoa made herself a resource for me inside and outside the classroom, assisting with a wide range of applications, problems I’ve faced, and more. Her passion gave me the initial interest into taking more CLS classes. Then, when Professor Arely Zimmerman began teaching, the way she merged Politics and CLS, my two interests, together, I knew I HAD to major in CLS. To all the prospective students interested in CLS: If you are looking for a holistic major you can call home, I couldn’t recommend CLS enough. CLS covers a wide range of topics with such a nuanced lens; there is something for everyone here.

While I am just a sophomore, I’ve already begun thinking about my thesis for CLS: Understanding and Positioning Mexicans in Chicago. When we look at where Mexican immigrants are migrating, the third largest enclave outside of East LA and Houston is Chicago. This seems counterintuitive though, as Chicago is nowhere near the border. I’d want to research Chicagoans and see why they chose Chicago, alongside other resources such as finding historical documents and understanding immigration patterns.

Sara Reyes Noriega ’21

Sara Noriega Portrait

My journey to CLS was a long one, and I did not really give it a chance until my sophomore year. My biggest fear in taking CLS classes was that they’d be very Chicanx-centric, and as someone who is Guatemalan, that is something I cannot relate to; I soon learned that I was wrong and that there is space for Central American experiences within CLS. I finally gave in and took my first CLS class (Politics of Citizenship with Professor Arely Zimmerman) in the fall of 2018, and for the first time, I felt like my experiences were actually being talked about and validated, as our histories have rarely been included in traditional forms of education. I was still set on a different major and considered CLS as a minor, but slowly, I began to be more convinced that CLS was the major for me. In CLS, I see the stories of my immigrant family (and friends) being talked about and represented. I know that with by majoring in CLS, I am learning more about my communities, but I am also learning the tools to help and elevate the communities that have gotten me to where I am now. 

I love how interdisciplinary this major is, and I feel that it’s one of the few that really combines different fields. I came in to Pomona interested in public policy analysis, politics, and sociology, and I find that CLS brings in all of those fields (and others) in a way that no other department does. There are so many different avenues to look at Chicanx and/or Latinx experiences through, and CLS allows me/us to do so. 

I am currently preparing for a SURP project with Prof. Zimmerman looking at the experiences of Central American undocumented and DACAmented students in higher education. Although I am a bit scared on what this whole process will look like because I have never done research like this before, I am also incredibly excited for it as I learn more about the research process but also give a voice to my communities.