Dr. Karina Elizabeth Vázquez, Community-Based Learning (CBL) Director in the Department of Latin America, Latino, & Iberian Studies (LALIS) at the University of Richmond, has been selected as the 2024 Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) – Arts and Humanities Faculty Mentor Awardee.

Vázquez views her mentor role as an opportunity to work with students in exciting and challenging processes of merging their intellectual interests with their life aspirations. In her current role as LALIS CBL Director, she coordinates educational initiatives and community translation and interpretation projects that support bilingualism, Hispanic/Latinx, and immigrant communities through collaborative projects to promote access to culture, education, health services, and more. She continues to see students as multifaceted individuals who want to explore and contribute on their terms and believes that her role as a mentor is to strengthen their self-positioning through process-based advising. Her success is proven through the growth of her program at the University of Richmond. Under her direction, the CBL program has become a cornerstone of the curriculum in her department, allowing her students to engage in 3-5 academic community projects each semester, complete numerous individual translation projects, write articles, give presentations, serve 12-15 community partners a semester, and her students provide approximately one thousand hours of community service/engagement each year.

According to Jennifer Jones Cavenaugh, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Richmond, “Karina’s unique approach of combining CBL with professional development clearly has resulted in positive student research outcomes such as publications. Perhaps more importantly, though, she has made her students more culturally aware, professionally prepared, empowered, and eager contributors to the bettering of our community. This is what only the best mentors can accomplish.”

“I felt elated when I got the news about the award,” explains Dr. Vázquez. “Immediately, all the experiences working as a research mentor passed through my mind, especially when students shared how conducting research had changed and helped them to better understand their communities. I am passionate about engaging students in Arts and Humanities research that seeks to respond to key questions while addressing challenges faced by local communities. Mentoring students who are passionate about social change and helping them hone their research skills to achieve a better comprehension of how representation and power intersect through social dynamics renews my commitment to the profession.”

Dr. Vázquez continues to explain, “Publishing and presenting at conferences with students have been inspiring experiences that keep me working on re-designing courses and re-thinking my pedagogical approaches. These are wonderful opportunities for listening to students present themselves with autonomy. Recently, I have enjoyed and learned from working on literary texts re-editing projects where students must write prologues for a reading audience defined by themselves. This assignment has shown them the power of literature. Research conducted for writing the prologues and presentations became a venue for students to identify and explore urgent questions and issues that surfaced as they became aware of themselves as members of an interpretative community. Researching and writing became instances for resilience, dialogue, and critical positioning/intervention. Working with these students helps me see the world through different and renewed lenses!”

Lindsay Currie, CUR’s executive officer, stated, “Dr. Vázquez’s holistic and humanistic approach to mentoring undergraduates should be celebrated. We are excited to acknowledge her vested interest in collaborating community and education to better prepare students through empowering their research. It is also humbling to see her dedication through such a wide lens that allows her to connect with her students to help them achieve personal and professional growth.”

The CUR-Arts and Humanities Faculty Mentor Award was established in 2018 through an endowed gift by 2012 CUR Fellow Joyce Kinkead (Utah State University) to nurture undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative inquiry in arts and humanities disciplines. Vázquez will be honored at the June 11, 2024, CUR Award Celebration.

 

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