The Latin American and Latina/o Studies Program Student Spotlight highlights the educational experiences of our undergraduate students. Here we celebrate the educational journeys and successes of Veronica Camargo, currently a sophomore, dance education major with a minor in Latin American and Latina/o Studies.

Camargo is from Wheeling, Illinois, but has also lived in Chicago and Mexico. Her love of dancing goes back to her youth when she was part of “Baile folklorico,” a traditional Mexican dance that incorporates regional traditions. Her father is a musician and DJ, so music and dance run in her family.

Camargo combines her love of dance with her love of history through her coursework. In the class, Multicultural Perspectives of Dance, she did a research project about Baile Mexica (pronounced Me-shi-ka), named after one of the indigenous peoples of Mexico. Camargo wants to continue to study dance beyond her undergraduate degree. She has identified an MA program in London about dance history.

Camargo’s love of dance extends to after-school activities, too. She is a member of RSO called Endurance Dance Team, a club where students choreograph dances. They are currently working on a show that will take place later this month at Heartland Community College. In the School of Dance and Theatre, she is also part of Dance Theater, a pre-professional company where they get to do two shows during the academic school year.

“ Whatever you are, be a good one”.  

This is Veronica’s favorite quote, which she attributes to Abraham Lincoln. It reminds her that no matter how lost she may feel, whatever she ends up deciding to be, she needs to be a good one.

The pandemic did not impede her dedication to her classes and learning. Although some of her classes were online, she still found ways to be creative and work around the inability to be in the classroom. For example, she recorded her solo for a dance theater class she took online in order to continue to practice her skills and share them with the class.

She decided to add the Latin American and Latino studies minor after taking Dr. Maura Toro-Morn’s introductory class. Camargo added: “She’s an inspiration to everybody she meets. So, I’m very grateful for her.” Professor Laina Reese Carney also supported her decision to declare the minor. Camargo added that Prof. Carney saw that she had completed most of the required credit hours and that it matched her passion for history.

When we asked her what she would say to a prospective student who is considering the minor, she added:

“I believe it’s very important to be well rounded. And Latino Studies is so important, especially for education, I keep referencing education, but it’s just so important to have knowledge about other cultures, about history, whether it be Latino artists or a type of art. I recommend it to anybody who’s interested in just broadening their education on the world.”

“In my Spanish class, we were talking about how it’s important to take these classes to further their knowledge base, as Latinos. It’s easy to just kind of hear it, and especially Spanish, I feel like it’s hard to feel legitimate when you don’t know the grammar as well. In studying that, it just makes it more, more professional, especially in higher education, more pursuing something that’s going to help our life and help our career and income. And if we don’t feel legitimate in ourselves, then we can’t have that in the future. So, we just talked about, you know, feeling good about ourselves in the minor.”

Camargo is now thinking about studying abroad. She has been to Ecuador but is looking forward to studying other cultures because as she put it: “it is enriching for us as humans.”

One of her favorite classes in the program was History of Latin America with Dr. Douglas Cutter. She especially loved the textbook, which was long and complex but also full of beautiful vocabulary that she felt pushed her to become a better writer. It was a double win for her, she felt like she really got in-depth with learning about the history of Latin America and she got to become a better writer.

In closing, we asked Camargo what would she would tell a student that is considering the Latin American and Latino Studies program.

“Absolutely do it, like, just, just do it! There is no other space, where you will be able to learn these things and have open conversations about the tough history that nobody wants to talk about. And it just gives you something to incorporate in conversation and professional conversations that you’ll have. It broadens your views, your mind. And the professors in this program, want to help you become a better person, too.”