Castaneda (‘04): Since visiting Washington D.C. in 2004, I’m
happy to report that I recently graduated magna cum laude from the
University of Houston with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English
literature. My senior honors thesis was a collection of short stories
entitled The Love Seat which was well received by my committee and gave
my degree the distinction of Honors in Major. One of the stories,
“Father and Son Admiring Caravaggio’s The Calling of St. Matthew” was
published in the University of Houston’s inaugural issue of their new
literary magazine, Glass Mountain. It also won the 2006 Brian Lawrence
Award in Fiction. In addition to my newfound love of fiction writing,
two of my memoir essays recently appeared in an anthology published by
Arte Publico Press.
In the summer of 2006, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of visiting China as a participant of a six-week study abroad program. At the Beijing Youth Political College, I studied Chinese history and film and as part of the itinerary, I had the exciting opportunity of visiting the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Badaling section of the Great Wall, the Buddhist temples of Shanxi province, as well as experiencing traditional Chinese opera. In less than a week, I will be continuing my travels to Spain where I will be studying the country’s literary and artistic history at the University of Cadiz.
This fall, I will enter the University of Houston’s MA program in the Department of English where I hope to continue my research interests in Modern American fiction, women’s literature, and contemporary Native American fiction. I will also be working as a counselor in one of Houston’s inner city schools as part of the Hispanic Scholarship Funds recruitment and retention initiative to promote college opportunities to Latino high school seniors. I am currently at work on a young adult novel entitled Portulaca Summer.
Participating in the Holocaust Remembrance Essay Project gave me a keener insight into one of my favorite research topics: the sociological interaction between contrasting cultures and ethnicities and addressing how these differences can be reconciled to create a harmonious and productive society. I learned the importance of gaining a working knowledge of as many groups of people as possible with the aim to reduce ignorance and prejudice through understanding.