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September 11, 2006

Chicanas gather at UCSC for annual summer institute

By Jennifer McNulty

The weather was foggy, but the interactions were warm during a recent gathering of Chicanas in higher education who came together for intellectual sharing, networking, and reflection.

More than 300 undergraduates, graduate students, and professors from around the country gathered at Oakes College in August for the annual summer institute of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS), or Women Active in Letters and Social Change. With support from the National Science Foundation, the event attracted women in the humanities, social sciences, sciences, mathematics, and engineering. This year's conference was dedicated to the memory of former UCSC chancellor Denice Denton, an outspoken advocate for women and minorities in science, math, and engineering.

The annual event was established in 1983 by Chicanas eager to identify collective solutions to the problems of race, class, and gender oppression they were experiencing in academia.

The theme of this year's event was “Transfronteras: Generations and Geographies: Activistas en la Lucha!” to acknowledge women working in academia throughout the Americas. “We honor those who have come before us as well as the new generations who lead the way during uncertain times,” said MALCS chair-elect Felicity Schaeffer-Grabiel, assistant professor of feminist studies at UCSC.

With more than two dozen participants from UCSC, the institute offered workshops and panel discussions on topics as diverse as
“Navigating and Surviving Your World: Fiction and Drama by Latinas and Chicanas” and “Democracy, Citizenship, and Social Justice Education.” A welcome reception, art exhibit opening, and beach bonfire provided opportunities for informal social interactions.

Four UCSC Ph.D. students held a roundtable discussion about “Radical Women of Color Feminisms: The Interconnectedness of Identity Formations, Political Projects, and Methodologies.” Sandra Alvarez of politics was joined by Elisa Diana Huerta of anthropology, Roya Rastegar of history of consciousness, and Susy Zepeda of sociology.

“The whole event was amazing,” said Aida Hurtado, professor of psychology and a member of the summer institute site committee. “It's so important to have these opportunities for us to come together and share our scholarship and our experiences.”

The institute's closing reception was followed by the opening of the 13th Annual Women of Color Film and Video Festival at Porter College.

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