Class Acts 2023
These impressive ethnic studies educators are leading, planning or researching new study abroad programs to engage Cal Poly students with additional Learn by Doing opportunities sin fronteras.
ELVIRA PULITANO (she/her/hers)
Specialty Areas: Indigenous Studies, Afro-Caribbean Studies, Theories of Race and Migration
Years at Cal Poly: 17
Read about Elvira
Q: As a native of Italy, why was it important to spearhead the first study abroad program to Palermo, Italy, this past summer?
A: Palermo has always been a multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual area. As a professor of ethnic studies with a strong interest in race and ethnicity, I thought a program like this could give students a deeper understanding of how race and racial relations operate in different countries.
Q: What can you share about how students interacted with refugees and migrants from around the globe?
A: Students engaged with two nonprofit organizations I found through my research, Giocherenda and Moltivolti. These organizations are run by young individuals who arrived in Palermo under insurmountable challenges. It is important to frame the narrative around migration so migrants are not seen as a problem but rather a solution. Staff at Giocherenda engaged students in a series of storytelling and role-playing workshops to portray the experience of migration beyond stereotypes and media misinformation. The Moltivolti center, a restaurant and social enterprise, is the hub of the program and a place where the students could come together. Students also connected with Moltivolti members during the four week program through activities like cooking classes.
Q: What do you say to students who feel study abroad is out of reach for them?
A: I’ve been adamant in telling students, especially students of color, who think that studying abroad is out of their budget, that that’s not necessarily true. There are many scholarships available.
JOSÉ NAVARRO (he/him/él)
Specialty Area:Chicana/x and Latinx Studies, Latinx Popular Culture, Latinx Literature and Gender/Masculinity Studies
Years at Cal Poly: 11
Read about José
Q: How did you come up with the idea for a Mexico City study abroad program?
A: My family is from Michoacán, Mexico, but it wasn’t until I was an undergraduate student that I had the opportunity to visit Mexico City. It is a place where one can see the current and past presence of Indigenous peoples in Mexico, where one can see the history and impact of Spanish conquest and colonialism, and where one can easily see the history and impacts of the Mexican Revolution. Many sites in and around the city are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, so choosing Mexico City as a site for a study abroad program was a very easy choice.
Q: What will the Summer 2024 program look like?
A: It will be a five-week summer program, and we will take trips to La Catedral, the Aztec ruins at Templo Mayor, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s house (La Casa Azul), Xochimilco, La Basilica, El Museo Nacional (the National Museum of Anthropology), El Palacio Nacional (the Presidential Palace) and Teotihuacán (Indigenous ruins).
Q: In your opinion, why is it important for faculty in the Ethnic Studies Department to spearhead additional study abroad opportunities for Cal Poly students?
A: Ethnic studies faculty have expertise in studying the developments of race, ethnicity, culture, etc., and the attendant structures that cement these categories. Study abroad programs allow us to walk students through a global and therefore truly comparative approach to the study of race, ethnicity and culture.
RYAN BUYCO (he/him/his)
Specialty Areas:Asian American studies with a focus on Asian American and Pacific Islander engagements with U.S. militarism and settler colonialism in the Pacific
Years at Cal Poly: 3
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Q: Did you study abroad as a student?
A: I studied abroad from 2008-2009 at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan. It was because of this experience that I became a Japanese language and literature major in college, which led me to do graduate work at the University of Hawai‘i and later Cornell University.
Q: Tell us more about your plan to develop a study abroad program in Hawai‘i. What classes do you anticipate students will take?
A: One of the central goals of this program is to guide students to rethink their relationship to these islands, away from images associated with the tourism industry, and toward an understanding of how the colonial circumstances in Hawai‘i shape the experiences of native Hawaiians and the diverse communities that live there today. This program will offer two classes: ES 256: Introduction to Asian American Studies and ES 340: Cultural Production and Ethnicity: Pacific Islander Studies, which I am currently developing.
Q: What would you say to students who feel that study abroad is out of reach for them?
A: I am currently trying to make this program as accessible as possible — so please stay tuned! Right now, I am looking into scholarship opportunities that students may be able to apply for through the servicer I am working with.
DAN CASTILOW (he/him/his)
Specialty Area: Cultural anthropology
Years at Cal Poly: 2
Read about Dan
Q: What are your research/scholarly pursuits?
A: My research has broadly focused on antiblackness and racialized masculinities in the African diaspora. Specifically, I am interested in middle-class leisure culture in the Caribbean and its connections to the process of racialization.
Q: Did you study abroad as a student?
A: I did not have the opportunity to study abroad as an undergraduate, as it was cost prohibitive for me. My experience led me to think about ways to create a more cost-friendly study abroad program that may be more accessible to students who traditionally do not have the opportunity to go abroad.
Q: Tell us about your plans to develop a new study abroad program in Trinidad and Tobago.
A: My hope is to propose a program that will appeal to students across different majors at Cal Poly. The course content will focus on cultural production from an ethnic studies perspective and introduce students to the interconnectedness of expressive cultures and ethnoracial politics. I am proposing the course as a short winter session class or possibly as a summer course. A winter course would allow students to experience the Carnival season, and a summer course would allow students a longer study abroad experience. Presently, Cal Poly does not offer any faculty-led programs in the Caribbean, and I hope this course will provide an opportunity for students to learn more about this important region beyond sun and surf.