By Dr. Diana I. Ríos, El Instituto and Communication
For several years we have conducted a case study on La Comunidad Intelectual (LCI) using biography-of-work techniques. LCI co-directors and founders, Diana I. Ríos and Graciela-Quiñones-Rodríguez have led student co-authors toward successful conference submissions. In February 2020, LCI student leaders again figured prominently as core to our self-examination and case study. We presented “Profiles in Courage, ‘Ganas,’ and Belonging at a Major University” at the annual CHEP Conference, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia. Our work highlights the strong motivation, “ganas,” needed for our underrepresented group members to be successful. An abstract of the work:
It takes courage, “ganas” (ambition) and a sense of higher education belonging for a young student to conquer the first year experience at a major research institution. La Comunidad Intelectual (LCI) is the first living-learning community of its kind at the state’s flagship research university. It stands out among similar learning communities of its kind across the United States. LCI nurtures culturally diverse students, strengthening their courage, “ganas,” and sense of belonging. These and other, similar concepts are connected to Latinx academic achievement. The term, “ganas”, for example, declares a cultural rootedness that is felt by Latinx-Caribbean students who feel fueled and obligated by self, family, and community dreams. Students need to feel air beneath their wings. Learning communities that mimic a small-college atmosphere are important for student adjustment into a home-away-from home on a big campus. A multi-prong support system and “ganas” gears a student toward success. In our historic sixth year, the learning community has grown and matured. LCI faculty and staff leadership are solid. LCI alumni, on and off campus, contribute their time and inspiration. Student leaders reach for higher and broader cultural, and professional activities to support the emerging intellectualism of “house” members. This Latinx-Caribbean themed community has flourished, despite a negative political atmosphere which is antagonistic toward Latinx populations. It charges on, in the face of hate crimes such as the slaughter of Mexican heritage people in El Paso, Texas in August 2019. Importantly, LCI extends friendship and welcome through its activities to many others in search of cultural warmth and belonging in a predominantly white institution. Overall, learning community components support courageous journeys for academic achievement, leadership, community service, social and political consciousness, and professional success.