Get involved with the Latina/o Studies Program at Cornell, and you might meet a student like Jazmin Aguilar-Romero, a sophomore chemistry major in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Aguilar-Romero, who has been an active member of the Latino community since her freshman year, hails from Los Angeles. She’s lived in different parts of the city, all with large Hispanic populations, so “it’s been something kind of constant that I'm surrounded by people of that culture,” she said.
As a first year she joined Teatrotaller, a theater group that promotes Spanish, Latin American and Latino culture through short satirical bilingual plays. The plays, most of which are written by students, deal with contemporary issues surrounding those communities. One Teatrotaller play depicted the inner conflicts of a Latina-American struggling to find her identity, torn between being American and being Latina. Aguilar-Romero portrayed the character’s Latino roots and spoke in Spanish for most of the play, opposite her co-actor, who portrayed the character’s identification with the American culture.
She currently sits on the e-board of the theater group as secretary, but continues to act in two to three Teatrotaller plays a semester. “It’s actually how I learned bachata and Cumbia dances,” she said. “It was kind of assumed I knew how to, and I had to do the basic steps as part of a skit.”
Aguilar-Romero, who took a drama class in high school, still enjoys learning acting at Cornell. “My favorite class so far has been PMA’s Introduction to Acting,” she said. “I got to meet a group of people I would otherwise never have.” During the semester, she also participates in a number of plays at Risley Theatre.
Aguilar-Romero is also a member of the Science Organization of Latinos (SOL), an undergraduate group that seeks to increase the number of Latinos in the fields of science, engineering and mathematics. The group consists of students from a range of backgrounds including biology, public health, sociology, and the humanities – many, like Aguilar-Romero, hope to go on to graduate or medical school.
By mentoring young minority professionals and providing them with academic and social support, SOL hopes to address the small number of minority scientists and health professionals in the U.S. The group recently invited a local surgeon to speak to students about his experiences, and will be inviting professionals from other backgrounds to speak at Cornell in the future.
Aguilar-Romero said the wide range of research opportunities available at Cornell drew her to the university.
“I was the first person from my school that I know of who attended an Ivy League School,” she said. “I chose to come here to be further away from home, see a different part of the country and attend a university with many research opportunities. Cornell seemed to have the most resources for working toward a career in medicine or science.”
Outside of Teatrotaller and SOL, Aguilar-Romero says she receives a great deal of support from faculty members in the Latino community.
From helping her choose her classes to talking to her about her experiences getting adjusted to Cornell, Juliette Ramírez Corazón, Latina/o student success advisor and assistant dean of admissions and advising, has been a valuable source of support and advice for Aguilar-Romero, both academically and personally.
Just a few weeks ago, Corazon informed her about a graduate student panel happening for the Latino Living Center’s Fall 2015 Café con Leche Series. “She encouraged me to attend and get in contact with graduate students in the field of science,” Aguilar-Romero said. “It was really helpful just talking to them about their experiences and their research.”
Aguilar-Romero also enjoys attending weekly faculty dinners held by the Latina/o Studies Program. “The LSP faculty are very open to talking to students,” she says. “It’s interesting hearing them talk to us about events, opportunities and their own work.”