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ISLE students document Latino culture

Over the summer, students in Intensive Semester Learning Experience (ISLE) 397, a 6-credit intensive interdisciplinary arts and humanities course, have been going out into the community and gathering information to create a Wiki site, Idaho Latinopedia.

This Wiki will serve Boise State and the greater community as a means of exploring Latino culture in Boise: from its history to present citizens and from restaurants to community resources.

Erin Gerry, a Spanish major pursuing her second bachelor’s degree, said she really appreciated the guest speakers who spoke during the first several weeks of the course. Gerry said one particular guest speaker, Rosaura Conley-Estrada, debunked stereotypes about Latino women. Conley-Estrada provided data showing Latino women only have one more child on average than white women in America, proving that the perception of Latino women having a lot of kids is incorrect.

“I appreciated the education piece,” Gerry said. “I like to listen and get other people’s views and opinions.”

Alicia Garza, who is teaching the course, said the idea for this class came to her while she was teaching one of her Mexican-American culture courses. Fellow professor Leslie Madsen-Brooks had taught a similar course. Garza has been excited about teaching this class, despite it being one she has never taught before.

Arts and Humanities Institute director Nick Miller is also excited about Garza’s course and other intense interdisciplinary courses. The goal of these courses is to “cross-fertilize” science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines with arts and humanities disciplines. Miller said the courses being interdisciplinary and having a service-learning component­ provide the experience employers are looking for.

Creating and teaching these courses has been a work-in-progress. One of the challenges has been recruiting students and making the course truly interdisciplinary.

“Things that are innovative require a lot of change,” Miller said. “[We’re] trying to make a 22,000 student university feel small. We are changing the dynamic of anonymity to a more intimate experience.”

Through this ISLE course, Gerry connected with people she has interviewed while gathering information. In her work as a counselor, Gerry has encountered language barriers. She decided to take a few Spanish courses, but realized she wanted to learn more about the culture as well. ISLE has given her the opportunity to do so.

Gerry interviewed one of her co-workers, who works as a school teacher, and got his sociological perspective on being respected in the community. With his master’s degree in administration, and dressing a particular way to conceal his tattoos, Steven Escobedo has found people treat him differently than when they see him in what he calls his “thug persona”: his tank top, tattoos and crooked hat.

Gerry is looking forward to how the Wiki page will turn out with experiences like these capturing the essence of Latino culture in Boise. For Gerry, the more she knows about Latino culture, the better. Gerry said this course has been very informative for her and is unlike any other course she has ever taken.

More courses like these will be available in the fall and spring semesters, with the fall course being ISLE 297.