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ASU transborder studies graduate uses education to connect with community

Esmeralda Franco is graduating with a degree in Chicana/o and Latina/o studies from the School of Transborder Studies. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

April 26, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Esmeralda Franco hopes to be a force for change and find new ways to bring resources and information to underrepresented communities.

Graduating in May with a degree in Chicana/o and Latina/o studies from Arizona State University's School of Transborder Studies, Franco switched to that degree path after her experience in a Spanish class taught by a transborder studies professor.

“I enjoy being a part of a community of people that enjoy their own culture and can not only study their own identities but those of others living on the border,” Franco said. “Studying and learning about Chicana culture and language has been transformational.”

While at ASU, she worked with several nonprofits and political campaigns at the local and national levels to create programs aimed at helping to engage underserved communities. Franco’s work as a Spanish program coordinator and translator for the National Domestic Workers Alliance allowed women, domestic workers and people of color to access financial, career and political resources.

She also served on the YWCA’s Leaders for Change cohort helping young adults study and work in the metro Phoenix area to develop leadership skills.

Her studies and experiences have helped guide her plans for the future.

“There’s a lot of untapped potential with the LatinxA gender-neutral form of Latino/Latina preferred by some. and Chicana culture, and we haven’t explored all the ways in which we connect to those communities,” she said. “I would love to find ways to do that through politics, nonprofits or other community organizations.”

Question: What’s something you learned at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer:  I realized that there truly is a place for everybody. No matter what or where their passion lies, it works out if you follow something you enjoy and are passionate about. I always thought you had to have a plan and know what you wanted to do, but it’s okay to be unsure because you will eventually find where you’re supposed to be.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A:  ASU allowed me the opportunity to study something like transborder studies. They offer many different majors I have never thought of before, and it was so cool to be around people passionate about their studies.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A:  Dulce Gonzalez-Estévez has given me many opportunities and taught me what it is like to learn things others might not be interested in. I never thought about Spanish or English or Chicano studies and there to be some intersectionality; she taught me that.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to students?

A:  There’s no expectation of what college is supposed to look like, and I know that when I came to college, I thought college was supposed to be a certain way and I had to do those certain things to be successful. But the truth is, there are so many other ways to succeed and get to where you want to be.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A:  It sounds cliche, but I like the Secret Garden, as much as everyone says they love the Secret Garden and it’s really not a secret anymore. I love how peaceful it is. Even if everyone knows about it, there’s still something personal about it. With all the students we have, it’s a crazy campus; it’s a place to refocus and be with yourself among the chaos.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A:  I would provide an education for more people. I have benefited from my education and my experience here at ASU. I think everyone deserves the opportunity to experience it.

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