Saturday, February 06, 2016


Commencement Close-Up: English doctoral program has three new graduates

grads and professor

In front of a mosaic mural in the UTSA Main Building: From left are Margaret Cantu-Sanchez, Norma Cantu, Patricia Portales and Candace De Leon-Zepeda
(Photo by Kris Rodriguez)

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(May 11, 2012) --It has been an outstanding academic year for the UTSA Department of English doctoral program. In October, it received national recognition at a Washington, D.C., ceremony as an Excelencia in Education finalist for its efforts supporting Latino student success. This weekend, it will graduate its largest class when three doctoral candidates walk across the commencement stage to receive their Ph.D.s.

Three proud Latinas, Candace de Leon-Zepeda, Patricia Portales and Margaret Cantu-Sanchez, credit Norma Cantu, UTSA professor of English, and her fellow department faculty for providing them with motivation and support as they made their way along their educational journey.

"Principally, what you see in these students is exactly what we strive for in our mission to serve the region and country, and do it in an excellent fashion," said Cantu. "Our drive for excellence is exemplified in our doctoral program."

The latest statistics by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2009 show that just 2 percent of Hispanic women in the United States earn doctoral degrees.

Candace De Leon-Zepeda, a Corpus Christi native and a single mother, was recruited by Cantu while completing her master's degree at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi. She enrolled in the program and commuted from Corpus Christi for a year before Department of English faculty members convinced her to move to San Antonio with her infant and complete the program.

"That was a crazy period in my life, not knowing anyone here, but I did it," said De Leon-Zepeda. "The faculty inspired me, supported me and made me feel like family. They were great and really embraced non-traditional students, such as mothers like me."

De Leon-Zepeda's dissertation is "Decolonizing the Classroom: Mapping the Impact of Educational Inequalities on Mexican Americans Through a Chicana Third-Space Feminist Analysis of Literature and Film." She currently teaches at the University of the Incarnate Word.

Patricia Portales grew up in San Antonio as the youngest of four children and the only member of her family to pursue a college degree. She decided to attend college after graduating high school and, through her high school vocational education training, landed a job at Southwest Research Institute.

"I was working in the communications department at SwRI, and the employees had a book club," she said. "They all had journalism degrees and asked me what college I was attending. When I told them I wasn't, they almost fell out of their chairs and encouraged me to do so."

Portales attended St. Mary's University, where she earned her bachelor's degree, became addicted to the university setting and never stopped until completing her Ph.D. in English at UTSA. Currently, she is a tenured associate professor of English at San Antonio College.

Her dissertation is titled "Women, Bombs and War: Remapping Mexican American Women's Homefront Agency During World War II."

Margaret Cantu-Sanchez grew up on San Antonio's South Side to parents familiar with the fruits of a college degree. Her mother had earned a bachelor's degree in business and her father an associate degree. Cantu-Sanchez loved to read and write and had dreams of being an English teacher, but her father encouraged her to reach higher.

"He wanted me to do something more than just be a teacher; he wanted me to go get a Ph.D.," she said. "I followed his advice and earned my bachelor's and master's degrees from St. Mary's University. I taught a semester there and realized that was what I wanted to do, so I applied and enrolled in the UTSA Doctor of Philosophy Degree in English program."

Her dissertation analyzed "Healing the Split: Tejiendo Mestizajes of Epistemologies in Latina Education and Literature." Cantu-Sanchez hopes to land a job as a university professor, continue her research and engage students to think about the issues she brings out in the classroom.

The 4:30 p.m. ceremony Saturday, May 12 will be a bittersweet one for Norma Cantu; it will be her last one as a member of the UTSA Department of English. This summer, she will begin her retirement to devote more time to writing projects and completing personal goals.

Established in 2002, the UTSA Doctor of Philosophy Degree in English program will have 20 students that have earned Ph.D.s by the end of the summer. This academic year, 31 students were enrolled.

"The Ph.D. in English at UTSA merits recognition for its focus on promoting and achieving the dramatic success of Latina-Latino students at the graduate level in the field of literary and cultural studies," said Jeanne Reesman, graduate adviser of record and professor of English. "Our program is the only one in the country that requires courses in Latina-Latino studies."

To learn more about the UTSA Ph.D. program in English, contact Jeanne Reesman at 210-458-5133 or visit the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts website.



Feb. 5, 6:15 p.m.

First Friday Stargazing

The UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy's Curtis Vaughan Observatory will offer free stargazing for the public beginning on top of the 4th floor of the Flawn Science Building. Experienced astronomers will be on hand to show a variety of astronomical objects and answer any questions. This event is free and open to the public, so feel free to invite friends and family.
Curtis Vaughan Observatory

Feb. 6, All Day

10th annual San Antonio Writing Project Teachers' Conference

This year's keynote speaker is Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisper. The event will feature breakout sessions and a presentation by the Creative Writers from North East School of the Arts. The event is free and open to all teachers from Pre-K through university level. Attendees can earn a certificate for 3 hours of Professional Development Credit.
Riklin Auditorium (FS1.406), Downtown Campus

Feb. 9, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. & 6 - 9 p.m.

Rowdy Gras 2016

The UTSA community is invited to attend the 3rd annual Rowdy Gras celebration! This year Rowdy Gras includes a daytime event from 11 a.m. -1 p.m. with a free food tasting and music on the UC Paseo. The main event takes place from 6 - 9 p.m. in the UC Lawn. The event includes free food, live jazz music, activities and giveaways.
University Center Paseo & Lawn, UTSA Main Campus

Feb. 10, 5:30 p.m.

UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning 2015-16 Speaker Series

The UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning’s 2015-16 Speaker Series continues with Dana Cuff, Ph.D., a professor of architecture and urbanism at the University of California, Los Angeles. In her talk, Cuff will discuss new forms of “studio” and new types of practices. Free and open to the public.
Aula Canaria Lecture Hall (BV 1.328), UTSA Downtown Campus

Feb. 13, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

29th annual Asian Festival - Year of the Monkey

The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures invites Texas and Texans to the Asian Festival. What began as a traditional family reunion for the Chinese New Year has expanded to include other Asian communities and participants, showcasing their unique culture and traditions.
The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures

Feb. 13, 1 p.m.

2016 Interdisciplinary Studies Colloquium

Join the UTSA Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching in celebrating interdisciplinary inquiry at the 2016  Interdisciplinary Studies Colloquium.  The colloquium will include a panel of faculty and recent doctoral graduate and a showcase of the best IDS undergraduate inquiry projects of the year 2015. The event is free and open to the public.
Business Building (BB 2.06.04), UTSA Main Campus

Feb. 23, 5:30 p.m.

African-American Social Welfare Pioneers Responding to Community Needs

The UTSA College of Public Policy presents the Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series featuring Dr. Iris Carlton-LaNey, Professor of the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Dr. Iris Carlton LaNey will speak to the UTSA community about the role and impact of African-Americans in the social work profession.
Buena Vista Theater (BV 1.326), Downtown Campus

Feb. 23, 7 p.m.

Presentation and Book Signing with Luis Carlos Montalvan

Please join us for a presentation and book signing by Luis Carlos Montalván (Fmr. Capt., USA), author of the New York Times Bestseller Until Tuesday and the international award-winning childrens book Tuesday Tucks Me In. His books will be available for purchase at the UTSA Bookstore. This event is free and open to the public.
Southwest Room (DB 1.124), Downtown Campus

Feb. 25, 6 p.m.

12th Annual Black Heritage Gala

The 12th Annual Black Heritage Gala is a formal event which includes a student performance, keynote remarks by Michael Brown, an award presentation, dinner and dancing. Tickets are $10 for UTSA students and $15 for all other guests. Tickets are on sale now at Roadrunner Express. Contact (210) 458-4770 for more information.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom, Main Campus

Feb. 27, 9 a.m.

Cultural Contrasts in Latin America

The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures will host a free workshop focusing on teaching Latin American culture and geography for students seeking their teacher certification. The workshop includes free resources for teaching Latin American subject matter as well as presentations on language, identity, music, geography, and political and developmental history, and a special educators’ tour of the museum’s Los Tejanos exhibit. Free with registration.
The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC 3.01.02)

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