Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Cook Center welcomes Marta Sánchez, Assistant Professor of Social Foundations at the Donald R. Watson College of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, as a visiting faculty fellow for the spring 2020 semester.

Sánchez, an educational anthropologist who has long studied the Mexican immigrant experience and the schooling of the Latinx population, describes her role as a “conduit of people,” the sort of lynchpin who can connect with those in the academy and the community. “I really am trying to help voices be heard,” she says. “Academics and people who speak English have a lot of power and voice, and people who have citizenship status have a lot of power…I think families that we describe as immigrants but have really been here a lot longer than other people are not heard.”

Sánchez’s first project started in rural North Carolina. Speaking with a waiter at a favorite restaurant, she recalls, “I asked him, ‘Where do your daughters go to school?’ And he showed me pictures.” The waiter was working miles away from his family; he was fathering at a distance. By 2017, Sánchez had seized upon this chance discovery and developed a full-blown book, Fathering within and beyond the Failures of the State with Imagination, Work and Love: The Case of the Mexican Father.

After relocating from Chicago to North Carolina in 2005, Sánchez began exploring further research on educational inequality in national, transnational and international contexts. With the Cook Center, she’ll continue her work on an efficacy trial that’s testing new strategies of collaboration between ESL and classroom teachers, in hopes of making a difference in the literacy attainment of Latino English language learners. The trial, which will expand to seventy schools in the next 18 months, is currently at its halfway point.

“Parents don’t want their kids to give up Spanish…they feel their children are competent enough to know both,” says Sánchez. “And I want to capture those stories because they direct us to better models of education, and exhort us to not just tolerate but move toward acceptance and better ways of life. They push us to imagine better programs.”

During the semester, she’ll also be teaching the GIRI seminar on Global Domestic Policy, one of four courses being offered as part of the Cook Center’s inaugural Duke Immerse program for undergraduates.

For these upcoming months, her schedule may be demanding, but from her perspective it’s a good problem to have. “I think it’s a really rigorous environment in terms of how people communicate and the sort of vision we have for equity, for social equity,” says Sánchez of the Cook Center. “It’s a very exhilarating place to be because the work is getting done and you’re not alone.”