Grad Spotlight: Analisa Gabryella Sulaica

Name: Analisa Gabryella Sulaica
Age: 22 

Course of Study (degree being earned): B.A. in Mexican American studies with a concentration in anthropology 

Hometown: Del Rio, TX  

I am from a small town along the southwestern Texas border. Moving to San Antonio was a big change for me but an amazing experience! There is so much culture in San Antonio, so I loved getting to visit different murals or museums when I had the chance. Moving back home after the onset of the pandemic, I occupied myself with sewing, cooking, and spending time outside. I came back home with new eyes, and now I realize how much life there is in my own community, and I am committed to doing everything I can to support it. 

Graduating high school, it was difficult for me to choose where I wanted to go to college. I wanted to stay in Texas, but the best support being offered to me was all from out of state universities. I was fortunate to be accepted into the UTSA Top Scholar Program, which provided me the support I needed to stay in Texas and pursue my degree at UTSA. The students and faculty at UTSA make it amazing. I have met so many passionate people committed to improving all facets of the university. 

What was your favorite class and/or who was your favorite professor? Why?

In Spring 2019, I took MAS 2023: Latino Cultural Expressions with Dr. Sonya Alemán. This was one of the first Mexican American studies courses I took after changing my major at the end of my very first semester at UTSA. I was a newly declared Mexican American studies major, and I didn’t know what to expect. Dr. Alemán’s course was wonderful! We learned so much about Latinx culture, and we had the opportunity to do a lot of individual reflection on our own cultural backgrounds. Dr. Alemán’s materials were always interesting and engaging, and she went out of her way to provide us with special experiences. For example, she arranged a session with Special Collections at UTSA for us to view special prints at the library. The prints were beautiful and moving, and that experience was really significant to my later decision to pick up an art history and criticism minor. 

What would you say is the most important thing you’ve learned over the course of your studies?

I plan on becoming a teacher, and I want my classroom to feel like a space where all my students feel comfortable learning, and do everything I can to support their success as individuals. I know that there are systemic issues present in the educational system, but as educators we can try to make the environment more inclusive for all students. This semester, I took HIS 2543: Intro to Islamic Civilization with Dr. Ali Atabey. Dr Atabey reached out to the UTSA Library to make sure all students in his course had access to our textbook for free. Small actions like can have a huge impact on students’ success. We all come from different circumstances, and we must do everything we can to acknowledge this and make the educational sphere an environment that every student has a chance at excelling in. 

Describe any organizations or activities within COEHD that you’ve participated in.

In spring 2020, I had the opportunity to present at the NACCS Tejas Foco conference in McAllen, Texas. This was an amazing opportunity to meet other scholar activists, and I would not have learned of the opportunity had I not been in contact with COEHD faculty. I think COEHD stands out at UTSA because the college is constantly trying to provide new, exciting opportunities to students, and is willing to do everything they can to support students as they pursue these opportunities. I am so glad that I was able to have this support during my time at UTSA. 

Describe any professional experiences or internship opportunities you have had. In the past year, I have been very active in the local business sector of my community.

I worked as an economic development intern with the City of Del Rio from the summer of 2021 to January 2022. I helped administer the Del Rio Small Business Stimulus Program to support local businesses that had been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I did research and developed proposals and outlines for other significant projects. Later, I began working with the Del Rio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as an administrative assistant. There, I developed public events to help local business connect with the residents of our community and highlight Latinx and Hispanic culture. Finally, I was a freelance content creator for the Sul Ross Small Business Development center, both the Alpine and Eagle Pass branches. With the guidance of my director, I created 17 manuals – one for each in the SBDCs’ respective jurisdictions – which provide aspiring and current business owners the information they need to support their endeavors. All of these roles demonstrate that a degree in Mexican American studies makes you a valuable candidate for a variety of opportunities! You do not have to feel limited by your degree, because all the skills you develop can be transferred to any role as long as you are committed. 

What is your fondest memory of your time at UTSA?

My fondest memory is spending evenings studying at the long tables on the 3rd floor of the JPL, where the windows face the Main Building. I loved studying there because the tables with the overhead lights looked just like the library tables do in movies and shows. I wrote most of my published research project, Bad Bunny: A Contemporary Latinx Activist, at those tables. That is an accomplishment I am incredibly proud of, so the 3rd floor of the JPL will always be my favorite study spot. 

How has COVID impacted you, either personally or professionally?

I was having a really difficult time adjusting when the COVID-19 pandemic began. I would sleep all day, work all night, and I survived on coffee alone for about 5 months. Gradually, I began to adjust, and now I am a much happier person than I ever was before. The pandemic made me realize that the relationships you have with others and yourself are more important than anything. When I stopped prioritizing work over everything else, I really started to grow as an individual. Now I love watching movies, spending time outside, and learning new things outside of my academics. My support system looks very different from how it did two years ago, but now I know that the people that support me also hold my same values and concerns, and, ultimately, I am surrounded by the best people I know who only want the best for me. 

What are your plans for the future and/or your career?

In January, I will begin teaching English and language arts at the 9th-grade level. I am very excited to take on this role! Ultimately, I just want to support the well-being of my community in any way possible, and right now, the best way I can do this is by teaching. Eventually, I would like to further my education by pursuing my master’s degree and possibly Ph.D. I was fortunate to be selected as a Mellon Fellow in the fall of 2019, so I have a good grasp of what higher education is like and why it is so important to diversify the field. I am excited to take on my teaching position, and I know many more great things will follow! 

What has brought you inspiration during this time? E.g., music, books, people, etc.

During this time, I have found myself to be very inspired by community organizers and organizations. I have been closely following and supporting the work of the Buckle Bunnies Fund, a Texas-based mutual aid organization that provides assistance to individuals seeking abortions in Texas. I find it incredibly inspiring that this organization maintains their commitment and resilience in every situation, even as Texas laws attempt to shut down essential community support like the Buckle Bunnies Fund. The work local organizers and organizations have done to support their communities has been incredibly impactful. I think we can all learn a lot by supporting these organizations, getting involved, and helping others learn more about why the work they do is so important to our communities. 

You’ve been given the opportunity to have coffee with any notable figure from your field, alive or dead. Who is it, and what does each of you order?

If I could meet a notable figure in my field, I would want to meet Dr. Carlos E. Casteñeda. Dr. Casteñeda was a professor at the University of Texas and eventually became the superintendent of the San Felipe School District in Del Rio, Texas, the school district in my hometown. There were separate schools in Del Rio for students, based on their ethnicity and race until 1972. Dr. Casteñeda was employed by the district long before the consolidation, but I would be interested in learning what his experience was like getting into higher education and school administration during this time. I think it would be interesting to know how similar or different his experiences were from what many people go through today. I initially learned about Dr. Casteñeda from my mentor, Ms. Debbie Salinas who has been teaching for many years with San Felipe Del Rio CISD, so I would be very excited to share everything I learned with Ms. Salinas.