UCSB Latin American and Iberian Studies Program

Meet Our New Graduate Student Jennifer Valenzuela!

Jennifer Valenzuela joined the LAIS Master’s Program in Fall 2023. In this interview she shared her motivations to study Latin America, her research interests, and the role her family played in them, as well as her expectations after graduation.

What led you to study Latin America?

I would say it was mostly the influence of my family. I had a project in undergrad that was finding the agency of someone in Latin America and discussing that, so I decided to interview my uncle who was from Peru. He grew up during this time of terrorism in Peru, so that’s what got me interested in studying Latin America and specifically Peru. I think that was really inspiring to me, my parents also grew up during that time and just hearing their stories and what they would tell me, the things they would go through is, I say, motivating me to continue studying Latin America and focus specifically on Peru.

What is your research focusing on now and why do you believe it’s important?

The research I’m focusing on now is the Shining Path in Peru and that period of terrorism, more generally in the 1980s and the aftermath. I wanted to focus on race and gender during that time and the political atmosphere surrounding that in the aftermath. I think it’s important to understand the current political and social relations in Peru right now and how they came to be this way. As an outsider looking in it might be difficult to understand why the social attitudes are the way they are, so I think studying this period and delving into specifics like race or gender and general social discourse about this time is important to understand the social and political relationships today. 

What are your current career goals?

My current career goals would be to be in an administrative role in higher education trying to help first generation students. A second path that I have considered is working for a non-profit or NGO that is related to Latin America and focuses on human rights. 

Is there anything you have learned through your academic experiences that you would like to share?

If you’re thinking about grad school while you’re in undergrad, don’t be afraid to take that gap year. Grad school will always be there, but you should be using time to think about whether or not it’s right for you. I think taking time in between grad school is not a bad thing and will really help you formulate your decision.

*This interview was conducted by Isabelle Tate-Arévalo