Rachel DeSoto Jackson

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Please explain what you do for living.

I am an educator, scholar, and artist in the field of Theatre and Performance focusing on creating diversity, equity, and inclusion through Applied Theater models for social change. My areas of specialization are in Latinx/Chicanx theatre and performance, Applied Theatre, and Theatre of the Oppressed. My artistic practice, scholarship, and teaching explore Latinx/Chicanx and minority narratives of identity, culture, and social memory. At the intersections of my work is an emphasis on community-building. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Applied Theater at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Director of SPATE (Simulated Patient/Applied Theater Ensemble). I also serve as a Board Member for the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed organization and on the Editorial Board of the organization’s journal.

How important in your identity is being Latino?

My Latina identity is at the heart of my personal and professional life. It was through my identity exploration that I came to my fields of study. My own exploration of cultural identity has been about recognizing how my experience fits within the many communities I operate within. As a Latina who did not grow up speaking Spanish, I have a different cultural experience than others within the Latinx community. This experience informed my perspective on the diversity of the Latinx community in the U.S. and an understanding of variances within cultural identity.

Is there something that you particularly value of your nationality or being Latino?

I value the culture of community-building within the Latinx community. When I joined the Smithsonian Latino Center's Young Ambassador program in 2006—this is a program that fosters the growth of Latinx leaders in the arts, sciences, and humanities (http://latino.si.edu/Education/YAP)—I was introduced to a wider network of peers who also understood the value of our cultural heritage. Through the community that was created within this program, many young Latinx students have had access to opportunities for leadership and networks that have promoted their visibility and success as Latinx leaders.

Have you been treated differently because of being Latino (in the workplace, in public settings…etc.)?

When I was an undergraduate and graduate student, there were often times when I would hear side-remarks made about my involvement in Latinx-specific programs. Often these remarks would criticize these programs and suggested that they were either not needed or that participants were receiving special treatments. It was hurtful to hear that my colleagues did not understand or support the work being advanced by Latinx programs or scholarships. This was one driving factor in my career path of becoming an educator so I could share my knowledge and experience with a diverse range of students.