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– Unfinished Business: Latinas in Education Advocate for Progress

Monday, Mar 25, 2024

  • Brian Lopez:

Minerva Cordero faced one of the most challenging days when she departed her small hometown in Puerto Rico for the United States to pursue her graduate degrees. Her decision to leave was not just for personal and family reasons but also to contribute to the advancement of Latinas in the field of education.

“The stereotypes surrounding the capabilities of Latinos and Latinas are what drive me every day,” expressed Cordero, who currently serves as the interim vice provost for faculty success and a mathematics professor at The University of Texas at Arlington. “I chose to remain here because I recognized the need for ongoing efforts.”

Sharing her narrative during a panel discussion titled “Latinas en Educación (Latinas in Education)” organized by UTA, Cordero was accompanied by Elsa Camargo, an assistant professor of educational leadership and policies studies, and Teresa Ayala, the president of the Tarrant County College Board of Trustees.

The panelists delved into their experiences navigating the educational realm as Latina women and provided insights on how current students can thrive in higher education. They unanimously emphasized the significance of a robust support network for women, particularly Latinas, and the necessity to challenge stereotypes to achieve success.

Camargo drew inspiration from her parents, neither of whom pursued higher education but encouraged her to attain a college degree. Despite feeling out of place at times due to her background and appearance, she persevered.

“My drive to instigate change in higher education stems from reflecting on my parents’ sacrifices,” shared Camargo. “I aim to spare other children from immigrant families the challenges I faced in higher education.”

Additionally, the panelists underscored the importance of commemorating Women’s History Month.

“Women’s History Month offers us a chance to honor the contributions of those who paved the way before us,” remarked Ayala. “We build upon the legacy of those who preceded us.”

Cordero highlighted that Women’s History Month serves as a platform to advocate for increased representation of women, particularly Latinas, in the STEM fields. In 2022, President Joe Biden recognized Cordero with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, distinguishing her as one of only 12 individuals to receive the accolade that year.

“The progress and success of this nation, which leads globally, are indebted to the tireless efforts of numerous women,” emphasized Cordero.

Reflecting on the month, Camargo stressed the significance of acknowledging both past and present achievements of women, particularly those from marginalized communities.

“It fosters a connection across generations, bridging the achievements of the past with the successes of today,” explained Camargo. “Understanding our history, often inaccessible, helps bridge existing knowledge disparities.”