Meet Our Majors

Meet some of our Latino/a & Latin American Studies (LLAS) majors as they talk about the department's sense of community, compelling interdisciplinarity and stellar faculty.

Clara Sena-Gersh ’22

Hometown: Santa Fe, NM
Majors: LLAS, Spanish studies

What was your motivation to major in LLAS? Was there a specific inspirational moment or experience?

My dad is from Mexico and my mom was a Latin American Studies major at her college so I was raised surrounded by discourse about Latin America. I wanted to major in LLAS in order to create a greater connection to my community while also learning about the history of Latin America and its cultures. Being a Latina in the U.S. is a unique experience and finding classes that spoke to that experience such as “Chicano Education” or “Latinx Politics” only fueled my desire to become a LLAS major.

Can you describe your senior comps project?

This past summer I had an internship with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). I learned that MALDEF is responsible for suing the state of New Mexico for failing to provide sufficient and equal education to English-language learners (ELL), low income and Native American students. Being from New Mexico and having a teacher as a mom, I decided to use this case for my comps project and will be interviewing 20 teachers to determine if New Mexican Latino ELL and immigrant students are receiving a linguistically and culturally relevant education and if the state of New Mexico is meeting MALDEF's demands in these areas as well as funding.

The LLAS department makes you feel like you truly have a community and a family supporting you and your goals each step of the way.

What do you find most compelling about studying LLAS?

Being able to learn about a region in which the United States has so much direct/indirect history and involvement is essential to being a globally conscious student. I love that there are a range of classes, as LLAS is truly an interdisciplinary area of study. I love being able to learn about the history of Latin America, the culture and modern-day issues in addition to looking at how Latinos have become such an important part of the U.S. despite discrimination and inequality.

What is the vibe of the LLAS department?

Community-based. The LLAS department makes you feel like you truly have a community and a family supporting you and your goals each step of the way. I still remember when I declared LLAS as my major, Professor Villa gave me a tajín-covered mango lollipop!

Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in LLAS?

Take “Chicano Education” with Professor Solórzano or any class with Professor Villa. “Chicano Education” was one of my first LLAS classes and it was the perfect blend of Latin American/Latino history with modern-day issues concerning Latinos.


Andrea Marquez ’22

Hometown: El Paso, TX
Major: LLAS; minors: education, history

Can you describe your working relationships with LLAS professors? Are there any standout classes you’ve taken?

Every professor I’ve had in the LLAS department has been so great. There are a few professors I have had for multiple courses and I’ve grown close to them throughout my time at Oxy. Two professors I encourage everyone to take a class with are Professor Puerto in the history department and Professor Solórzano in the education department. Both instructors teach courses that double-dip with LLAS and go out of their way to make you a better writer and critical thinker.

Can you describe your senior comps project?

For my senior comps, I’m researching the high school experiences of low-income Latinx students at Occidental College. I want to learn more about the social resources they had available that contributed to their matriculation into college.

As a declared major, I’m able to continue taking classes in multiple departments while studying various aspects of Latin America and the Latinx identity.

What do you find most compelling about studying LLAS?

The LLAS department takes interdisciplinary teaching to the next level by offering students flexibility for course work. Students who attend a liberal arts college already receive an interdisciplinary education, but that form of teaching is much more present within the LLAS department. As someone who jumped between majors a lot, I found myself pulled toward classes in different departments that all had an emphasis on Latin America or Latinx people. Now as a declared major, I’m able to continue taking classes in multiple departments while studying various aspects of Latin America and the Latinx identity.

What are your ambitions post-Oxy and how has the liberal arts approach helped to shape these ambitions?

Right now, I’m applying to grad schools to get a master's degree in educational studies with a concentration in policy. I’m still figuring out what my ambitions are long-term, but I can see myself working in a school setting with K-12 students. 

Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in LLAS?

If you’re considering LLAS as a major but aren’t sure, I highly recommend you reach out to Professor Villa. Besides being a great professor, Professor Villa goes out of his way to make you feel a part of the department and regularly checks in with his students. He’ll give you the rundown of the department and you’ll leave his office as a declared major!

What is the “vibe” of the LLAS department?

Since it’s a relatively small department, LLAS majors are really supportive of one another. We’ve taken a lot of the same classes together throughout our time at Oxy and we support one another inside and outside the classroom.


Amanda Medina Segura ’22

Hometown: Lockport, IL
Majors: LLAS, psychology

Can you describe your working relationships with LLAS professors? Are there any standout classes you’ve taken?

Some of my favorite classes that I have taken during my time at Oxy have been taught by LLAS professors because of their inspiring teaching styles. I have had the honor of taking multiple classes with Professor Puerto, who has had a major influence on my development as a student—especially with writing. Professor Villa teaches a “Latino Literature and Culture” course that introduced me to some of my favorite books to this day.

Have you taken part in any student research opportunities at Oxy or elsewhere? 

I took part in the Summer Research Program at Oxy during the summers of 2020 and 2021. These opportunities provided me with amazing research experience. I recently was accepted to present my 2021 summer research project at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students.

The liberal arts approach helped me to merge my interests in psychology with Latinx and Latin American studies.

What was your motivation to major in LLAS?

The opportunity to conduct my own interdisciplinary comprehensive research project for my LLAS senior project was what motivated me to major in it. At first, I was a dedicated LLAS minor who had taken a majority of the classes LLAS offered. Now, as a LLAS major, I have the opportunity to receive expert guidance from Professor Trevizo as I work on my own project regarding Latina reproductive and sexual health.

What are your ambitions post-Oxy and how has the liberal arts approach helped to shape these ambitions?

I hope to work as a culturally based mental health therapist for the Latinx community. The liberal arts approach helped me to merge my interests in psychology with Latinx and Latin American studies, which allows me to understand the complex landscape of Latin American subgroups who all require their own culturally relevant care. 

Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in LLAS?

I highly encourage anyone considering a major to reach out to the LLAS faculty and affiliated faculty because they are all extremely kind educators that are very willing to support and guide students. The LLAS department has offered me endless support that I will always be grateful for!

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