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Charles R. Hale, Director SRH 1.310, 2300 Red River Street D0800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512.471.5551

Latin American Studies Students Receive Awards, Honors

Posted: May 14, 2014
Aurora Mayté Salazar-Ordóñez

Aurora Mayté Salazar-Ordóñez

Four Latin American studies majors—three graduating seniors and one junior—are the recipients of honors this spring.

Latin American studies major Aurora Mayté Salazar-Ordóñez has been named to the Dean’s Distinguished Graduates list, an honor reserved for only twelve graduating seniors. This is the fifth consecutive year that a Latin American studies major has been on this prestigious list. Mayté is a triple major in Latin American studies, history, and anthropology, minoring in French and art history. In addition to achieving a 4.0 grade point average, Mayté’s accolades include Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Alpha; the Dean’s List; and distinguished scholar in the College of Liberal Arts (twice). Mayté’s wide-ranging academic research has included cataloguing and indexing the three-volume memoirs of a Mexican Catholic priest who ministered during the Revolution, conducting fieldwork and research on the Rarmuri native peoples of Northern Mexico (for which she was awarded first place in a classroom competition), and an invitation to present her research in French and Italian as part of Undergraduate Research Week.

Matching her intellectual and scholastic pursuits, Mayté has dedicated much time and energy to community service and charitable work, both on campus and off. She has worked in student governance and helped new students as a counselor at Camp Texas; as an officer for Texas Spirits she has volunteered for the American Red Cross, homeless shelters, and food pantries; she participated in a campaign that raised over $50,000 for Dell Children’s Hospital; and, in a feat unmatched by most, she bicycled from Austin to Alaska as a program leader of Texas 4000 for Cancer, working to raise funds for cancer research.

Two graduating Latin American studies seniors shared the thesis prize of $1,000. Mary Catherine Driese wrote a thesis titled “The Perpetuation of Poor Health in Guatemala” in which she addresses the history of indigenous Guatemalans’ poor health, public health care in Guatemala, and the coordination of the public health system with NGOs (nongovernmental organizations). Her purpose was to “illustrate a connection between the historical disadvantages indigenous Guatemalans have faced since the Spanish Conquest and their present health status predicament, and to highlight ways in which NGOs can improve the care they give to indigenous patients.” She found that “NGOs delivering culturally appropriate healthcare in indigenous languages as consistently as possible are by far the most successful NGOs.” While not the norm, these NGOs “deliver healthcare in a culturally sensitive way and see the most success with indigenous patients.”

Mary Catherine shares the thesis prize with María Mónica Villarreal, whose thesis is titled “Students with Disabilities in Public Education: Mexico and the United States.” Villarreal compares the experiences of children with disabilities in the public education systems of the United States and Mexico. The goal, she says, is “to identify the problems within both systems and how they relate to one another,” and make “suggestions about policies both of these countries could adopt to improve education for children with disabilities.”

Ana Hernández, a junior, was nominated to Phi Beta Kappa. As a Latin American studies major she has already distinguished herself by leading the Latin American Network as its president. The Network spreads awareness and appreciation of Latin America through intellectual debate, providing resources for students, and fostering an inclusive and supportive community atmosphere.

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