February 11, 2015//
Meet Ben Olguin. A UTSA faculty member since 1997, Olguin is an associate professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing Program and the Honors College Assistant Director for National Scholarships. His research focuses on Latina/Latino literature, cultural studies, art and history. In addition to his scholarly activities, Olguin is a poet and a progressive social activist.
If I was going to write about the working class from which I come, I need to continue working alongside them.”
– Ben Olguin
The year 2014 was pivotal for Olguin, starting with the publication of the anthology, Latina/os and WWII: Mobility, Agency, and Ideology, which he co-edited with University of Texas at Austin Professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez. The book explores the history, sociology, literature and art by U.S.-born Latinas and Latinos during World War II.
He also published two collections of poetry – Red Leather Gloves and At the Risk of Seeming Ridiculous: Poems from Cuba Libre. The first consists of poems drawn from his memories as an amateur boxer when he was a young man (Olguin was undefeated in his career, he notes, counting two knockouts in a 14-0 record). The collection serves as his own "attempt at a feminist analysis of masculinist and patriarchal socialization practices."
The second book is a politically-charged testament to the people of Cuba, and chronicles his travels to the country as a member of the activist group the Venceremos Brigade.
"All three of these projects share the unifying theme of people trying to have an impact on this country and Latin America, sometimes against seemingly insurmountable odds," Olguin said.
Olguin has established himself as a productive researcher, but at UTSA he's also regarded as an esteemed lecturer. He hopes his class will instill courage in his students and the desire to question everything. He wants them to never be complacent, but rather recognize that true knowledge is uncovered in the debate itself.
Olguin earned his B.A. at the University of Houston, where his grandfather worked as a janitor, and his M.A. and Ph.D. at Stanford University. He previously taught as an assistant professor in the English Department at Cornell University, and as a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
His pursuit for intellectual growth and provocative, socially committed scholarship has led him down several interesting and surprising paths. He has worked as a construction worker, prison educator, volunteer Emergency Medical Technician, unionized grocery worker, waiter and cook.
"I needed to know what I was writing about," he said, "so if I was going to write about the working class from which I come, I need to continue working alongside them."
These life experiences also served his objective to be an organic intellectual – one whose values and intelligence are derived both from the working class and the academic. He doesn't have it all figured out, Olguin is quick to say; only that he's on a perpetual journey of discovery as a scholar and human being.
Do you know someone at UTSA who is achieving great things? Email us at email@example.com so we might consider your submission for an upcoming installment of Meet a Roadrunner.