Gatepost Interview:Patricia Sanchez-Connally, Professor of Sociology

What is your resume and background?

I did my undergrad here. I graduated with a major in sociology and a minor in psychology. … I went on to do college advising for an organization called Bottom Line. I was one of their first advisors in Boston. … I have a master’s in applied sociology from UMass Boston. … I was the coordinator for multicultural recruitment at the admissions office. Being here and being in that position, I realized that I wanted to go back and continue my education. So I went back for a Ph.D. in sociology from UMass Amherst, and I’m actually going to be defending my dissertation this fall.

What is it like being a first-generation college student?

I feel a responsibly to provide others with at least some of the same opportunities that I was provided with. I know that it’s obviously a separate challenge, not only as a first-generation, but as a woman of color, as a student of color on any predominantely white college campus across the U.S. or anywhere. It’s a different set of challenges, but especially being an immigrant. I’m a first-generation student, but I’m also a first-generation immigrant.

How did you get involved in the Employees of Color Affinity Group?

With the Affinity Group, it’s all related to my research, but also my experience. It’s literally putting my research and my scholarship into practice. I use critical race theory to look at the ways in which communities of color create different forms of capital, and how that capital is used to resist discrimination and basically get through and survive. One of the things that comes out of that is the idea of counter spaces – spaces where people who may have had the same experience, who may identify the same in terms of certain types of characteristics, are able to gather and talk about their experiences and challenges and how to move forward. So with the Affinity Group, I felt that it was really important to be able to have a place or space where faculty and staff who identified as people of color just got together.

What was it like working with students on the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion?

I love working with the students. It’s the part that is most rewarding to me because you see them coming in and figuring out what to do and looking at these challenges. And for a lot of them, this is their first time being in a college classroom, the first time for a handful of them, where diversity is something that they actually have to think about. … If you’re a student from Lawrence and you’ve gone to Lawrence public schools, then you come to Framingham and this is the first time you’re sitting in a classroom with students who do not look like you – with teachers who may not look like you, either.

What led you and your colleagues to create the Black Lives Matter teach in?

I try to educate myself when it comes to those issues. I’m a mother of a black child – my husband is black – so it’s really near and dear to my heart. And I have a lot of students who are also black, so it’s important to me. I was asked to work on the actual town hall meeting. We worked together to make it happen. It was definitely an amazing experience. … And so now, other than just bring awareness to the challenges, discrimination and obstacles that we may face, we are moving on to that next phase of action.

Are you proposing any new sociology department initiatives?

I want to bring students down to the [Mexico] border. Right now, it’s looking like El Paso, Texas. I want to work with immigrant organizations – especially organizations that work with immigrant children. There are thousands of children detained at the border. Most of them come from Central America. … A lot of students can identify with having to leave their country.

What do you feel is your proudest achievement?

Surviving and being here. Coming to work every day. Walking into my classroom is an achievement for me. Knowing what it’s taken for me to be able to do this and get paid for it is something I’m super proud of. … One of the things I’m really proud of is the Intercultural Graduation Ceremony for students of under-represented backgrounds which we are having on May 5. … Because I think it was time for us, as an FSU community, to recognize first-generation, LGBTQ and students of color who are graduating. … I’ve always loved seeing those Kente Stoles around people when they graduated. … The fact that families will drive out here and take part in that ceremony. It was such an amazing experience last year.

What advice would you give to FSU students?

Speak up about issues that are important to students. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort space. Don’t be a poster in the classroom. Get engaged. Talk to your professors. When you find something you know you really like and feel passion for, go for it. It might be difficult to go through it, but it’s probably worth it.

2 Comments on Gatepost Interview:Patricia Sanchez-Connally, Professor of Sociology

  1. Happy to see an activist recognized–all too rare. Sociology is a subject area best taught not only through words but also with action. There will always be but 24 hours per day so increasing the good behaviors automatically decreases the evil ones being done. It’s worth a try, isn’t it???

  2. So proud of this lady. She’s an incredible wife, mom, friend, leader, teacher and she just get’s it. She is a real life she-ro! Watch her future. The best is yet to come!!!

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