Understanding the Mexican American experience
By Nathaniel Miller
Sierra Salas, a senior Political Science major at St. Mary’s University, knows what she wants in a career: to serve the people of San Antonio.
Salas said it’s important to know your public to serve your public. As a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) in a city with a majority of its population identifying as Hispanic, St. Mary’s recently added an undergraduate certificate and a minor in Mexican American Studies.
The 15-hour Undergraduate Certificate and the 18-hour Minor in Mexican American Studies launched in Fall 2021 and offer the opportunity to learn more about Mexican American history, culture and politics.
“The classes have inspired me and given me more passion to serve my community in San Antonio,” Salas said. “They’ve played such an important part in making me realize just how big of a role Mexican Americans played in forming this country.”
In San Antonio, 64.2% of residents identify solely as Hispanic, according to numbers from the 2020 U.S. Census. In Texas, 39% of residents identify as Hispanic, and about 60 million people in the United States identify as Hispanic.
Professor of Political Science Arturo Vega, Ph.D. (B.A. ’81, M.A. ’83), said the purpose of both the minor and the certificate is to help not just Mexican American students understand their heritage, but also to help students of other backgrounds gain insight into Mexican American culture.
“If you want to work in San Antonio, if you want to work in this community, if you want to work in Texas, you need to know something about this population,” Vega said.
As a Mexican American, Salas said most of what she has learned during the courses is new to her, such as the history of Dolores Huerta and her work alongside Cesar Chavez in civil rights and farmworkers’ rights.
“I never learned any of this in high school. I never learned any of my history or culture prior to taking these classes,” Salas said. “I’m glad I have these classes to open up my eyes.”
In addition to the Mexican American Studies undergraduate certificate, St. Mary’s University offers numerous options for those looking to expand the scope of their studies and skills. Here are a few recently launched 12-credit-hour graduate certificates programs.
- The Graduate Certificate in Digital Communication covers digital analysis — which uses data from websites and platforms to offer a better online experience — design, production and digital communications law.
- The Graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership helps educators in secondary schools further their careers by covering topics such as educational advances, preparation for public hearings with school boards, and instructional supervision and evaluation. This certificate could be used to help private school educators step into an administrative role.
- The Graduate Certificate in Theology covers the history of scriptural interpretation, the development of Christian teachings, and practical aspects of Catholic social teachings and ethics.
- The Graduate Certificate in Biblical Studies provides a foundation in how to read the Bible through
an academic understanding. It guides learning about different interpretations and how to read
them in biblical literature.