Maria Hinojosa — award-winning investigative reporter; founder and president of The Futuro Media Group; anchor/executive producer of “Latino USA” on National Public Radio; and anchor/producer of her own series, "America by the Numbers with Maria Hinojosa" — is the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Chair in Latin American and Latino Studies.
Born in 1651 in Mexico, Juana Inés de la Cruz was an early proponent of women's rights and equal access to education; today, she is considered the “first feminist” of the New World. Hinojosa teaches four courses across the academic year. Here, she talks about her first year at DePaul.
I’ve found my students to be inspiring.
Many are commuting, they take an hour and a half to get to school and back, they work jobs during the school hours, and they deal with real-life challenges in their homes. I think DePaul’s Latino students are living the promise of this country — the promise of a great education for those willing to imagine it, to reach for it, and to work hard.
That’s why I’m not completely surprised when amazing things happen at DePaul.
For example, last spring, I was the commencement speaker for Latino graduation, where I met four young Latinas, all graduating with degrees in environmental science. Charmed by their rapport, I created a segment called “The STEM Sisters” for Latino USA, a radio show that celebrates the complexity and growing influence of America’s diverse Latino community. We’ve had the STEM Sisters on twice so far. The things young Millennials care about — are they finding jobs, do they have mentors, are they mentoring others, are they in business, what do they need to succeed — we’re talking about with them. They’re so smart, and people love the segments.
Being a teacher at DePaul intersects wonderfully with the rest of my life. Because I grew up in Chicago, I already knew DePaul as a university with a sense of place: I understood that DePaul was all about Chicago, and now I’m thankful to have the pulse of the city in my hand. Also, I’m lucky that my work enables me to give my students access to our society’s movers and shakers — Latino leaders in politics, business and the media — who come to my classroom as guest speakers.
I hope my students leave my classes with a sense of empowerment — a sense that being “a minority” is not what the future looks like. I want them to understand that they are the new "mainstream" in America; they are part of a historical moment and a massive demographic change. Finally, I want them to be prepared to take risks: Anything that I’ve achieved is also within their reach.
I could imagine this program — the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Chair — being developed at other universities and colleges, under DePaul’s leadership, because it’s an excellent opportunity for people who aren’t traditional academics, but who still have valuable “life lessons” to share and who want to give back to young adults and to the community at large.
In 2012, Hinojosa received the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She has won four Emmys, the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Reporting on the Disadvantaged, and the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Overseas Press Club for best documentary.