Monday, December 23, 2013

Dr. Angela Diaz: My First Semester

Dr. Angela Diaz on the first day of classes, 9-3-13

By Dr. Angela Diaz

Like many students, the Fall 2013 semester was the start of my career at Daemen College. I got to experience all that Daemen had to offer right along with my freshman students. Throughout the semester I attended a number of lectures and activities on campus. I taught three classes this past semester--2 sections of American History to 1877 and a class on The Latin American Diaspora in the United States. I found teaching here at Daemen rewarding in a variety of ways, and next semester promises to be equally exciting. 

First, I would like to introduce myself. I recently received my Ph.D. in History from the University of Florida. I’m originally from Texas, and my primary areas of study include 19th century American history, the Civil War, westward expansion, and changing ideas about race in the United States. In addition to these research areas, I also study Latin American history, immigration to the U.S., and the Latino culture. Many of the classes I taught in the fall and will teach in the spring pertain to these areas. Next semester I am teaching courses in Latin American History, Introduction to World History II, and two sections of U.S. History from 1877 to the Present. In the future I plan on offering courses in Civil War Era American history, post World War II world history, and immigration history. 

At the Puerto Rican Day Parade: Tyler Vanice (History), Francois Acosta (Political Science), Dr. Diaz, Arthur Cruz (Political Science), and Amy Grimes (HP-Adolescent Education)

As a newcomer to the Daemen, I have been incredibly impressed by our students’ willingness and eagerness to serve the larger community and learn about the current state of the world around them. This is one of the most special things about Daemen College and the History and Political Science Department. At the beginning of the semester, in early September, I accompanied several students from The Latin American Diaspora class (Amy Grimes, Arthur Cruz, Tyler Vanice, and Francois Acosta) to Buffalo’s Puerto Rican and Hispanic Day Parade. The rain began just as the students settled into a choice spot along the parade route. Though it drizzled throughout the parade it was still a wonderful display of Western New York’s Hispanic community and its commitment to celebrating the heritage of Latin American nations. The parade is an annual affair in Buffalo, and follows a trend set by the Puerto Rican community in East Harlem in New York City where Puerto Rican Day was first celebrated by parades back in the 1950s. It was a way for Puerto Ricans to celebrate their heritage and the developments of their community. More recently, in Buffalo, the parade has been broadened out to include a celebration of all Latin American nations and Latino nationalities.

Puerto Rican Day Parade in Buffalo, 9-7-13

The students remarked on the sheer number of floats and the variety of dancers, music, and colorful decorations coming from each float. Both the class on Latin American immigration and culture in the United States and the parade make evident the kind of impact that the Latin American community has had on the United States. Students had an opportunity to connect the long history of Latin American immigration to modern day presence of Latinos in their own community by exploring the manner in which these groups display their heritage and their place in American society.

I also attended several other programs focusing on global issues. A forum on “Immigration Reform & Justice for Farmworkers” in November brought together several organizations actively participating in immigration reform for a discussion of the current state of farmworkers’ lives and immigration. Daemen students were eager to learn what they could do to help farmworkers and get involved in the effort to reform immigration. From our own department, Dr. Aakriti Tandon and Dr. Andrew Wise’s programs (discussed in previous blog entries here and here) were excellent examples of the many ways that the department helps Daemen students connect to the wider world. Dr. Tandon’s student panel, “Coming to America,” provided insight on international students’ experiences in the United States. As a historian, I am interested in the many ways that immigrants and people of color maintain cultural traditions within the United States and under considerable pressure to “Americanize.” As a new professor, I was glad to learn about international students’ thoughts on American college and American culture. “Galicia: One Land, Three Nations,” Dr. Tomasz Pudlocki’s talk on the region he studies, was an illuminating lecture on complex history of this region. I have come to appreciate the History and Political Science Department’s continuing commitment to Polish studies, and the development of a curriculum focusing on immigration and refugee studies. 

I look forward to the start of next semester and to meeting new and old students in my classes as well as attending more events. Next semester, I, along with many of our new students, will get to experience Academic Festival, which has come to be such a celebrated part of life here at Daemen College. As I look back on my first semester at Daemen I am proud to be part of such a growing and vibrant community.

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