Sierra Salas, a political science student at St. Mary’s University, knows whatSierra Salas, a political science student at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, knows what she wants in a career: to serve the people of San Antonio. This motivation helped her pursue the University’s new undergraduate certificate in Mexican American Studies as well as a Master of Arts in Public Administration.
To serve audiences, Salas said it’s important to know your audience. As a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) in a city where the majority of the population identifies as Hispanic, St. Mary’s recently added an undergraduate certificate and minor in Mexican American Studies.
The 15-hour Undergraduate Certificate and 18-hour Minor in Mexican American Studies launched in Fall 2021 and offers the opportunity to learn about Mexican American history, culture, and politics.
“The courses inspired me and gave me more passion to serve my community in San Antonio,” Salas said of the certificate program courses. “They played such a big role in making me realize how big a role Mexican Americans played in shaping this country.”
In San Antonio, 64.2% of residents identify as Hispanic only, according to 2020 U.S. Census figures. In Texas, 39% of residents identify as Hispanic, and approximately 60 million people in the United States identify as Hispanic.
Political science professor Arturo Vega (BA ’81, MA ’83), Ph.D., said the purpose of the minor and certificate is to help Mexican American students not only understand their heritage, but also to help students of other backgrounds gain insight into Mexican American culture.
“If you want to work in San Antonio, if you want to work in this community, if you want to work in Texas, you have to know something about this population,” Vega said.
As a Mexican-American, Salas said most of what she learned in class was new to her, such as the story of Dolores Huerta and her work alongside Cesar Chavez on civil rights. and the rights of agricultural workers.
“I never learned any of this in high school. I never learned anything about my history or my culture before taking these classes,” Salas said. “I’m glad to have these classes to open my eyes.”
For more information, visit stmarytx.edu.