Suzy Ziaii ’15 Senior Profile: Hispanic Studies

ziaii_suzyMy time and efforts spent majoring in Hispanic Studies have truly made my academic experience at William & Mary. As a freshman, I was interested in Latin America and wanted to continue my Spanish. I felt a bit lost that first semester, but I found solace in my tiny Hispanic Studies freshman seminar, where I felt the tight-nit bond that was missing in my giant Econ 101 lecture. From there, I took 281 with professors who I fondly remember as the “dream team” (Professor Tandeciarz, Rio, and Professor Longo) and I fell in love with the department and continued taking classes throughout my remaining semesters.

I cannot overstate how enriching my experience with Hispanic Studies has been. In my four years here, I have had opportunities to subtitle Cuban revolutionary film, intern at the National Security Archive with the Southern Cone Documentation Project, participate in a delegation and field research trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, study human rights in La Plata, Argentina, intern with a prisoners’ rights organization in La Plata, and interview an acclaimed Chicana poet in Professor Arries’ senior seminar. And while I have gained invaluable skills and knowledge from these incredible opportunities, these things would have never been possible without the Hispanic Studies faculty’s encouragement and generosity in sharing their contacts and insights. I feel so blessed to have learned from some of the most intelligent, passionate, and kindest people I have ever met. They have taught me so much beyond the classroom: to think independently, to question the dominant narrative and existing paradigms, and to listen for voices that might not always have the platform to be heard. I have also had the good fortune of getting to know many of my professors on a more personal level, and while they hold us to the highest standard as students, they never forget our humanity.

Although Hispanic Studies is a part of the larger realm of cultural studies, it goes far beyond just reading and analyzing literature or poetry, watching film, listening to music, etc. I have learned that on a deeper level, Hispanic Studies involves discovering power dynamics through the study of cultural artifacts. Since societies speak through cultural production, it is imperative that we study these artifacts not only to find their meanings, but also to unearth whose interpretations prevail and whose get left out or hidden.

At this point in time, I am continuing my job search and am hoping to find a position that focuses on immigrants’ rights advocacy. Although I look forward to the future, it will be hard to leave Washington Hall. I owe so much to the Hispanic Studies department and I just want to give my most genuine appreciation to the faculty who work tirelessly to teach what they love. I want to thank all my professors and my advisor, Professor Tandeciarz, for their unending support and advice. I will miss you all dearly!

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