Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, Austin Community College (ACC) sits down with influential and accomplished faculty and staff to discuss what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them.
Dr. Lydia CdeBaca-Cruz has been at ACC for four years. She started in 2016 as an adjunct faculty member teaching English Composition for the Ascender program and has also taught ESL in the Adult Education program. She now works as a college associate for Ascender while still teaching for the program in English Composition, Integrated Reading and Writing, and Mexican-American Studies, and she currently serves as the program coordinator for Mexican-American Studies in the Interdisciplinary Studies Department.
Why is it important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month? How do you celebrate your heritage?
It's important to celebrate our heritage 12 months a year really because every day Latinx people contribute so much to the U.S. that is underappreciated and very often unknown. We have such a rich legacy of literature, science, mathematics, philosophy, politics, art, and history that most people — including our own communities — aren't aware of. For this reason, I celebrate our heritage daily by supporting Latinx businesses, musicians, artists, and writers. I celebrate through activism to advocate for the community. And I celebrate through education to share the richness of our history, our languages, our arts, and our gente (people) with students, friends, and the community as a whole so that we know to honor our ancestors (nuestros antepasados) and so that we see role models for ourselves and the future.
What advice would you give to our Hispanic/Latinx students?
Que ponte las pilas! (Stay energized and motivated!) Even though times are tough right now, and you may question whether you're where you're supposed to be, you belong here, and you're on the path to achieving your goals, whatever those may be. Also, seek out mentors, seek out instructors who are supportive, seek out tutoring, seek out advisors who will listen to you. Find your community at the college who will help you navigate the institution and help you stay on your path toward success.
What is your biggest inspiration?
My students. Every week, every day, every semester, I'm so amazed by their commitment and intelligence and how they overcome so much to ensure they succeed in their education. I wish I had had as much ganas (desire) as they have when I was in college.
What is your proudest achievement?
Although I don't emphasize it too much, I'm actually very proud to have finished my doctorate. As a first-generation college graduate and a Chicana who came from a single-parent, working-class household, the odds were stacked against me even finishing my bachelor's degree. And now I can proudly say that I am one of the two percent of Latinas in the U.S. who has a Ph.D. My goal now is to steadily increase that number so that the number of Latinx advanced degree earners is more equitable across the country.
How do you foster an inclusive environment?
I try to open as much space as possible for students' voices in the classroom while also developing a curriculum in which students can see role models and how people who came from the same communities they come from and the same backgrounds as their own, have become successful writers, mathematicians, nurses, doctors, engineers, artists . . . the list goes on and on. I strive in my classes to show students that they belong in college and at ACC and that their aspirations are valid and attainable.