Hailey Oppenlander | March 9, 2019
MacKenzie Isaac knew she wanted to improve her Spanish skills at Notre Dame. But to be truly fluent, she needed to learn more than the language.
“Fluency isn’t just being able to go abroad and sound competent and sophisticated in your use of language,” she said. “It’s also having a deep cultural understanding of what's going on.”
That mindset drew the junior sociology major to the Institute for Latino Studies, where she’s found academic inspiration, research support, and a welcoming community.
“ILS is so much more than an academic institute,” Isaac said. “It is a platform for Latinx — and other marginalized — voices to be elevated. It is where some of the most powerful acts of solidarity emerge on this campus.”
Isaac has worked closely with Karen Richman, ILS’ director of undergraduate studies, to research issues connected to the Caribbean diaspora, colorism, health, and more. Richman is advising Isaac in the Kellogg Institute's International Scholars Program and as she plans her senior thesis on skin-lightening among Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic.
“I enjoy taking interdisciplinary courses that allow me to learn about current issues, triumphs, and events within Latinidad because more than ever, these things are featured in everyday, public conversation,” she said. “America's Latinx community is not only the fastest-growing, not only the youngest, but it is also one of the most influential in shaping our political rhetoric, our discussions of faith, and our workforce.”
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