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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Four U Professors Look to Make History with Their Tenure

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(From left to right: professor Lourdes Alberto, professor Dolores Calderón, professor Leticia Alvarez, professor Veronica Valdez and professor Theresa Martinez. Photo by Kylee Ehmann)
(From left to right: professor Lourdes Alberto, professor Dolores Calderón, professor Leticia Alvarez, professor Veronica Valdez and professor Theresa Martinez. Photo by Kylee Ehmann)

Four Latina professors will be up for tenure next year at the U, which is more historic than it first appears.

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If professors Veronica Valdez, Leticia Alvarez, Dolores Calderón and Lourdes Alberto are accepted, it will nearly double the current number of Latina, tenured professors on campus and raise the total of Latina professors to get tenure at the university from six to 10.

Theresa Martinez, a professor in the Department of Sociology, was the first Latina to receive tenure at the U. And she’s supporting the four women on their journey to that position.

“To be a tenure-track professor at all is hugely coveted across the country,” she said. “We’re very positive about all four of the cases.”

Professors on the track to tenure go through a seven-year process, which includes a probationary period in order to have a guaranteed position. Adjunct professors do not have the same expectations for research that tenure-track professors do and are paid less. But each department has their own standards for this process.

Alberto, a professor in the English Department and the Ethnic Studies Program, said while seven years may seem like a long time, it becomes shorter when you think about the length of time it takes to get an article or book published. As publication of research or books is one of the most important parts of becoming a tenured professor, the process can sometimes take years to complete.

“Tenure is really stressful,” Alberto said. “Nothing is really set until you get tenure, so you don’t know if you have to go on the job market and move somewhere else.”

Alvarez, a professor in the Department of Education, Culture & Society who works with refugee and immigrant populations said cultural background plays a role in the stress of the situation.

“It’s hard to get tenure period, but we also know it’s harder for women of color because there are just so many demands on us that are not expected of other faculty,” she said.

Valdez, who works in the Department of Education, Culture & Society, said her area of specialization is in multilingual studies and the role education programs play in maintaining or fostering heritage languages among students. She did not initially have Utah in mind and it wasn’t until she was invited to the U, met the people in the department and saw the work being done in the community that she decided to come.

“It was like feeling that we could make a difference in coming here,” she said.

Valdez said the support she’s received from Calderón, Alvarez, Martinez and Alberto has helped her continue.

“If I had come, and this group of women had not come together, I don’t know if I would have survived,” she said. “That’s been part of the blessing for us to come at relatively the same time.”

Calderón works in the Department of Education, Culture & Society and in the Ethnic Studies Program. Her research looks into the success of Title VII programs, which work to meet educational and culturally-related academic needs of indigenous populations in the United States and Utah.

“Without the students it would not be meaningful to me,” she said. “That’s what keeps me going.”

Salt Lake City’s Latino population is around 22 percent, with the state as a whole at 13 percent, according to the 2010 census. According to the U’s Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis, the university’s Latino population is significantly less than the surrounding city and state. Last Fall Semester, nine percent of those on campus marked Latino as their ethnicity.

Calderón said it was not an accident that the four Latina professors were hired together; it was part of a goal to bring more diverse scholars to campus. Martinez agreed now is the time for these women to make a difference culturally at the U.

“Look at all the students that we serve and look at the chicano students who want us and need us — they need to see us as role models,” she said. “Students of color really need to see us.”

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