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Interview with Iliana Rodriguez, August 5, 2016

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:25 - Early life / Elementary school

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell me more about where you were born, your family, where you grew up?

Segment Synopsis: Rodriguez discusses being born in Houston, Texas and moving to Georgia at an early age. She recalls living with her extended family in an area known as the Los Crescents apartments in Marietta, Georgia, learning English through watching TV, and feeling singled out by being the only one of her cousins in advanced classes. She recalls one time when her parents couldn't help her with a science project, and how that reinforced the idea that she had to forge an academic path on her own.

Keywords: Dunwoody Elementary School; ESL; English as Second Language; Houston, Texas; Los Crescents apartments; Marietta, Georgia; Osborne High School; advanced placement; cousins; family dynamics; migration; painting; poverty

00:09:12 - Negotiating Latina identity and education

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Partial Transcript: And then in our middle school there were a lot more Latino students.

Segment Synopsis: Rodriguez discusses how being the only Latina in her advanced classes continued on into middle school. She recalls how one year she received two schedules: advanced classes for "Iliana" and regular classes for "Yami" (the name she goes by), and how she chose the regular classes so she could be with her friends. Rodriguez also talks about her teachers' attitudes towards her education and one teacher's intervention to encourage her to apply to a magnet school.

Keywords: Campbell IB; Cobb County; Osborne High School; differentiation; magnet school; minority; tokenization

00:14:45 - Magnet school experience

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Partial Transcript: So the first day--the way that the magnet program works is that...

Segment Synopsis: Rodriguez recalls being bused to Campbell High School and befriending another Mexican student named Claudia. Rodriguez describes her search for belonging, and her internalization of guilt stemming from other Latino students questioning her Mexican identity. She also describes the division between students in Campbell's IB program versus the wider student body.

Keywords: Latina; Mexico; advanced placement; belonging; education; guilt; identity; segregation; tiers

00:18:02 - Adapting to the University of Georgia

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Partial Transcript: And then I came to UGA.

Segment Synopsis: Rodriguez describes how culture and gender norms factored into her perception of higher education, and the peer pressure to apply to universities that existed in high school. Rodriguez describes her difficult adjustment period at UGA, in which she searched for belonging in campus Latino organizations, ultimately becoming involved with Alternative Spring Break, the starting point for her future involvement in service organizations.

Keywords: Alternative Spring Break; Habitat for Humanity; Hispanic Scholarship Fund; IMPACT UGA; University of Georgia; community service; culture shock; gender norms; higher education; machismo; parent expectations; scholarship

00:27:20 - Deciding on a major

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Partial Transcript: What was your next step?

Segment Synopsis: Rodriguez talks about the process of choosing her majors in International Affairs and Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and describes the feeling of connection when studying works written by fellow Latino authors.

Keywords: LACSI; Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Latino studies; Pamela Voekel

00:31:11 - Freedom University / Undocumented Student Alliance

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Partial Transcript: My first year I wasn't that aware, but in 2010 when I started college, the Board of Regents decided to ban undocumented students...

Segment Synopsis: Rodriguez recalls learning about the ban on undocumented students to the top five public universities in Georgia, and becoming involved with Freedom University, an initiative by UGA professors to provide classes to undocumented students. She describes how she and a friend, Cole Bowman, came up with the idea for a partner organization to Freedom University, which they called the Undocumented Student Alliance. She discusses growing the group from an unregistered, informal presence to a formally-recognized student organization, and describes the process of organizing events and fundraisers, learning how to be an ally to and advocate for undocumented students, and visiting the Stewart Detention Center.

Keywords: Board of Regents; El Refugio; Freedom University; Jackson County, Georgia; Pamela Voekel; Stewart Detention Center; The Dream is Now documentary; advocacy; fundraising; immigration policy; intentional service; public universities

00:42:59 - Evolution of mission of Undocumented Student Alliance

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Partial Transcript: What were you thinking over these years? How did your thinking evolve?

Segment Synopsis: Rodriguez talks about the evolution of the organization's mission over time to focus more on direct action, civil disobedience, and impacting policy. She recalls participating in one protest in which she and fellow member, Anise Crane, were called in to a meeting with university President Jere Morehead.

Keywords: Jere Morehead; UGA Arch; march; protest; undocumented students

00:50:01 - Advocacy outside one's group

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Partial Transcript: And then with Freedom University--it's been six years since 2010.

Segment Synopsis: Rodriguez mentions that Freedom University continues to exist and to prepare students for application to universities outside of Georgia. Rodriguez also recalls media coverage of the protests and the general atmosphere of disinterestedness surrounding the ban on undocumented students during her time at UGA. She describes the like-minded bubble that develops in social justice groups, and the ways in which organizations can reach out and educate others.

Keywords: Board of Regents; Policy 4.1.6; advocacy; education; segregation; undocumented immigration; university system of Georgia

00:55:15 - Casa de Amistad

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Partial Transcript: How about we talk now about Casa de Amistad?

Segment Synopsis: Rodriguez discusses volunteering as the lead ESL teacher at the non-profit, Casa de Amistad. She describes the process of learning how to teach, tailoring classes to her students' experiences, and supervising other volunteers. She talks about implementing a childcare program for parents, and compares how Casa de Amistad and ALCES (Athens Latino Center for Education and Servies) differ in their organizational structure and approach to issues of education and advocacy in the Latino community.

Keywords: ALCES; English as Second Language; education; hospitality; non-profit; roleplaying; teacher; teaching; volunteering

01:08:53 - American Studies program at Yale

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Partial Transcript: You're involved with all those different things during your time at UGA.

Segment Synopsis: Rodriguez recalls her professor's encouragement to apply to graduate programs. She discusses deciding between her top two choices: a master's in social work or a doctorate in American Studies. She talks about ultimately choosing the doctorate program, and tailoring her research to Mexican immigration in Georgia and the undocumented student movement.

Keywords: graduate school; immigration; interdisciplinary; research; scholar

01:15:49 - Latino activism: New Haven versus Georgia

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Partial Transcript: In New Haven or the surrounding area is there a Hispanic community or a Mexican community?

Segment Synopsis: Rodriguez describes the culture shock she experienced when she moved to New Haven, Connecticut for graduate school. She talks about the vibrant activitist community in New Haven, and mentions two advocacy organizations: Unidad Latina en Acción and Junta for Progressive Action. She compares those organizations to the ones in Georgia, including the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) and Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO). Rodriguez discusses the need for more local advocacy organizations in the suburbs, and how access to public transportation factors into political and social mobilization.

Keywords: activism; advocacy; demonstration; migrants; migration; protest; public transportation; urban vs suburban