Claudia Donoso, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Graduate International Relations, St. Mary's University

When I arrived at St. Mary’s University in 2017 as Assistant Professor of Graduate International Relations, with an expertise in human security in border zones, I knew I was in the right place to advocate for the rights of vulnerable individuals. Although teaching and research are relevant endeavors for faculty, the Marianist ideals of the University offer several opportunities to serve the community and to work for social justice and the common good.

In 2018, I participated in the Alternative Spring Break led by our Civic Engagement Office — an effort in which I traveled to the Rio Grande Valley with students and Brother Mike Sullivan, S.M., as part of the Border Witness Program led by ARISE, a local organization empowering the immigrant community.

Being an Ecuadorian immigrant in a privileged position, I was deeply touched by testimonies of locals who voluntarily shared their stories. After my visit to the Respite Center in McAllen, I called my dad in Ecuador and said, “I feel that I have a mission and that I need to do something to help.” This led me to conduct research to advocate for female asylum seekers and health care in detention centers in Texas.

My social activism didn’t stop there. I’m now conducting research regarding education inequality in San Antonio’s West Side during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite our West Side community symbolizing Mexican-American history and culture, it has historically faced inadequate resources and racially segregated schools. By discussing categories of class, ethnicity and race, I aim to explore how the pandemic increased the educational gap affecting the human security of disadvantaged students.