Mapping the Roots of Our People, and the Routes They Took to Get Here

By John Herndon


When asked “How did you get here?” students, faculty and staff at ACC give as many different answers as there are peoples and cultures on the planet. At least, that's how it seemed to us when we created this project to trace the many, intertwined roots of the ACC community.

What we learned from this project is that you can never make assumptions about people's ethnic and racial identities. Someone from London might have parents from Egypt or Nigeria, someone from Lebanon can be both Arab and Christian, and someone from South America could have roots in Europe, Africa or Asia.


The idea arose in a planning session for Carnival Ah!, the Arts and Humanities Division's spring festival of arts and culture. The theme for 2012 was exploring the cultural diversity of Central Texas.

Peck Young, the director of ACC's Center for Public Policy and Political Studies and a co-sponsor of the festival, pointed out that more than 100 different ethnicities immigrated to Central Texas in the last 150 years, and all Central Texans are first, second, third or fourth generation immigrants. “Heck, our smartest, hardest working people who contribute most to our community are immigrants,” he said.

Thinking out loud about the many languages and cultures represented on campus, and the many new media intersections and collisions in this global village, we developed a collaborative vision—we would interview students, faculty and staff who are immigrants or the children of immigrants, and present the videos via an interactive map. Viewers of the installation at Carnival Ah! would be able to access the interviews via their smart phones, and we would create a map on the internet as well. To see the on-line map, go to http://www.austincc.edu/ah/media/ahmap.php and click on the country of your choice.

I was asked to produce and direct the videos. Drew Thomas was director of photography and editor and he created the web map; additional photography was contributed by Maria Clara Garcia and David Bukstein. Our video intern, Sawyer R. Urbach, served as production assistant.

With help from A&H administrative assistant Polly Monear and other staff members, as well as professors in the Departments of Foreign Languages and English for Speakers of Other Languages, we lined up interviews with 21 people representing five continents.

Arts and Humanities Dean Lyman Grant stressed the inclusiveness of the project. “I like this project because it really highlights the international quality of the Arts and Humanities Division.”

Grant added that he wants us to continue developing the “How Did You Get Here” map project, with new rounds of interviews. If you have an interesting story to tell about how you and your people got to Central Texas and ACC, and you would like to contribute an interview, please contact me at jherndon@austincc.edu. Please let me know a little about yourself and your background, and what you do at ACC.

John Herndon is an adjunct professor of English and Creative Writing and a College Associate in the Arts and Humanities.

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