This semester we welcomed to campus Dr. Flores-Rodriguez, an instructional assistant professor for the Latin American and Latino/a Studies Program. We are very excited to have Flores-Rodriguez join our team. In this article, we introduce her to our campus community. We hope students are taking advantage of the expertise and experience she brings to her classes.

Flores-Rodriguez studied comparative literature at the University of Puerto Rico for her bachelor’s and master’s degree. She earned her Ph.D. in comparative and world literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her dissertation, “Towards a TransCaribbean Poetics: A New Aesthetic of Power and Resistance,” examined a new generation of Caribbean writers living in the United States and how they challenged commonheld ideas about power, violence, and cultural identity through the Latin American dictator novel. She noted, “In their reinterpretation of Caribbean dictatorial regimes, authors like Julia Álvarez, Edwidge Danticat, and Junot Díaz, bring forth the complex realities of transnational Caribbean communities, dispel ideas on cultural identity based on the discursive legacy of the Cold War, and invite us to take an active role as architects of the Trans-Caribbean space.” We asked Flores-Rodriguez to answer some questions for us with the hopes to learn more about her interests.

What is your favorite quote?
As a lover of literature, I should have several go-to authors and quotes at a moment’s notice but to be honest I’ve read so many beautiful and wise words from authors all over the world that I cannot choose one over others. For a while I had one beautiful phrase as part of my formal email signature that read: “Magic happens when you don’t give up, even though you want to. The universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart” by J.M. Storm, who I later learned was an “Instagram poet.” I guess I fell in love with the imagery of a stubborn heart and a conspiring-in-your-favor universe, even in the midst of “storms” (yes, I included the author’s name in the scenario, I am too aware of the importance of context!).

What is the value of Latino Studies for college students?
Being a first-generation Latina Ph.D. who developed her career in public research universities has a lot to do with my commitment with fostering Latino/a Studies in the United States, especially in our current times, where Latino/as are among the favorite targeted populations to blame everything that goes wrong in this country. I am aware this is a very political statement, but one of my main goals is to raise students’ awareness of their role in society and encourage them to not shy away from important policy and civic discussions currently happening around them.

Have you attended any Latin American and Latino/a Studies Program events? If yes, what was the event and why was it your favorite? What did you gain from the experience?
I have attended a few LALS events in the last few years, from cultural dinners to student-led celebrations of our diverse Latin American and Latino/a heritage. What I love about LALS programming is the breadth of it. The program brings people that the Latino/a students can relate to and view as role-models, (such as Maria Hinojosa, Sonia Manzano, Soledad O’Brien, etc.) pushing ISU students to dream endless possibilities about where and how far Latino/as can go. LALS talks actively about current events and how these events affect the multiple communities our students are a part of, both in the United States and in Latin America; community panels about DACA and Dreamers, Queer Brown Voices, Venezuela, México, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico. We stand in solidarity and we become multitudes. Because we want to sum, not divide!

What would you tell a student considering declaring the Latin American and Latino/a Studies minor?
The minor in Latin American and Latino/a Studies is just the first step towards receiving an education that is often ignored or minimized in our country. It will challenge you to think differently, and to reconsider old positions you took because it was convenient, easy, or just the only option given. This is a path towards learning for learning’s sake, it is not necessarily justified by the jobs you will get afterwards. However, it is a path of liberation, of freedom from old ways of thinking and from being a victim. It will make you grow into yourself, in your own terms. But you will learn with others, collaboratively, because you will not be alone. ¡Atrevete! Join us!

We asked her to share something more personal about herself, here is what she said.
I am from Puerto Rico, born and raised there until I came up to the continental U.S. to start graduate school. I enjoy writing poems and stories, reading graphic novels, and every other piece of printed word that comes to my hands; sculpting with clay; cooking for the people I love; spontaneous conversations with people I don’t know; playing Pokémon and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on my phone; traveling; and spending time with my family. Oh, and I just started a course on how to sew using a machine. You can say I enjoy doing a few things…