Skip to content

Taking the road less traveled: Spotlight on Guanajuato alum Michelle Carreño

Through leadership development, experiential learning, and engaged service, Guanajuato alumni have had an incredible impact through our programs, and continue to make their mark in their careers. One of these professionals we had the pleasure of connecting with is Michelle Carreño.


Carreño in Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

After graduating from UNC and participating in the APPLES Global Course Guanajuato, Carreño moved to Colombia to become a bilingual World History middle school teacher with plans to eventually travel around South America alone.

“Traveling solo has been something I have always wanted to do ever since I can remember,” Carreño said. “The idea of going to a foreign place: meeting new people, learning about a new culture, a new language, trying new types of food, dancing different types of music, visiting new places, making decisions on my own from the smallest to the biggest ones and all of this ‘solo’ sounded so fascinating to me, and especially in Latin America with an indefinite time.”

While a student at UNC, Carreño took LTAM classes and instantly connected to the material.

“I did not realize how passionate and interested I became with Latin American studies when I first took classes,” Carreño said. “It was something so natural to me… I truly believe I felt I was searching my identity and learning where I came from.”

Being the daughter of Colombian immigrants, Carreño wanted to explore that side of her identity and moved to Colombia after graduation with the intention of teaching for a couple of years and then traveling alone. After the first year ended and it was time to resign her contract, Carreño made the difficult decision to pursue her solo travel dreams sooner than she intended.


Carreño (above) is a Guanajuato alum

And it paid off.

“What many people do not realize is that traveling brings heaps of enriching perks to our lives and helps humans become stronger,” Carreño said. “Additionally, I soon realized in my travels, you never travel alone because you meet millions of people disposed to give you a hand and share with you your path if it’s for 5 minutes to a few hours to days to months to years.”

Seven countries later, Carreño has taken advantage of her time in South America. Whether camping, hiking, or meeting new people, Carreño explored places in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina. She was even able to meet up with her brother to explore the Amazon and Brazil.

When it comes to traveling solo, Carreño encourages others to do the same.

“I decided to take this trip through Latin America because it has been one of my dreams and I also wanted to empower women, especially Latinas, that they can travel ‘sola’ through their own continent,” Carreño said. “You will grow in so many ways. Best of all, you will see how you’re not either from here nor there and that we are all world citizens/darte cuenta que no eres ni de aquí ni de allá y que todos somos ciudadanos del mundo.”

Whether she is in South America traveling solo or back in the States, you can find Carreño dancing, doing yoga, hiking, swimming, reading, and of course, traveling.

Thank you so much for sharing your adventure with us, Michelle! We can’t wait to hear more!

See more of Michelle’s adventure below:

Rev. Erika Martínez Flores receives 2016 Sharon S. Mújica Community Service Award


Rev. Erika Martínez Flores (right) with Latino Migration Project Director Dr. Hannah Gill

Rev. Erika Martínez Flores received the 2016 Sharon S. Mújica Community Service Award Thursday, Dec. 8, 2015, at the 10th Annual Institute for the Study of the Americas Faculty Dinner. This award is given annually by the Institute for the Study of the Americas to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to Latin American and Latino communities in North Carolina.

“It is a great honor to receive this award,” Rev. Martínez Flores said, thanking her community for practicing social justice and creating an inclusive cultural place.

As part of Sanford Building Integrated Communities, Rev. Erika Martínez Flores helped lead the Planning Committee to support Lee County’s immigrant and Hispanic residents all while serving as Executive Director of El Refugio/The Refuge. After analyzing the data of over 300 immigrant and Hispanic county residents, the Planning Committee worked to streamline strategies that would advance communication, improve public transportation, and support Hispanic leadership and engagement in local government into a single, comprehensive plan. This action plan was unanimously endorsed by the City of Sanford City Council and the Lee County Board of Commissioners.

Past recipients of the Sharon S. Mújica award include Blanca Zendejas Neinhaus, Jerry Markatos, Florence Simán, Ilana Dubester, Cassandra Daniels and Alvena Heggins, Gail Phares and Sarah Plastino.


Building Integrated Communities (BIC) is a statewide initiative that helps North Carolina local governments successfully engage with immigrants and refugee populations in order to improve public safety, promote economic development, enhance communication, and improve relationships. As a result of working with BIC, local governments and diverse community stakeholders have the tools to generate locally-relevant strategies to strengthen immigrant civic engagement, linguistic achievement, and economic/educational advancement.

The program is supported by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Please enjoy photos from the evening (below). Photo credit Jorge Ochoa.

Request for Applications: Building Integrated Communities (BIC) Local Government Partnerships

Request for Applications:
Building Integrated Communities (BIC) Local Government Partnerships


The Latino Migration Project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill invites local governments in North Carolina to join the statewide Building Integrated Communities (BIC) initiative.

Building Integrated Communities (BIC) is a multi-year community planning process that helps North Carolina local governments to successfully engage with local foreign-born, refugee, and Hispanic/Latinx residents to improve relationships, enhance communication, and promote economic development.
In February, 2017, BIC will select two local governments as its newest partners for a two year project period starting in the spring of 2017. All towns, cities, and counties in NC are eligible to apply.

To apply, download the application 2017 Application for Local Governments or access it online:

Submission Deadline: 5:00 PM Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017
Prospective Applicant Webinar Meeting: 12:00 PM Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016

Access webinar slides here.

The BIC initiative also offers consulting services to local governments, community organizations, and businesses.

The 2017 schedule for application review and determination have also changed accordingly, as follows:

Applicant Site Visits/Conferences: February 13 – February 24
Applicant Notification: February 27 – March 3

More about Building Integrated Communities (BIC)

BIC facilitates newcomers’ civic engagement and leadership in local governments and promotes the educational and economic advancement of increasingly diverse communities. Our methods include multi-sector stakeholder collaboration in processes such as participatory community assessment and consensus-based action planning. Since 2010, BIC has partnered with the cities of Greenville, High Point, Winston-Salem, and Sanford to create and implement four citywide action plans for immigrant integration, the first such plans in the South.

Above: City of Sanford Mayor Chet Mann awards the Building Integrated Communities team a key to the city.

Above: City of Sanford Mayor Chet Mann awards the Building Integrated Communities team a key to the city.

As one example of a successful initiative, the Sanford City Council and Lee County Commissioners recently, and unanimously, endorsed a comprehensive action plan proposed by the Sanford BIC Planning Committee (2014-2017) to advance communication, improve public transportation, and support Hispanic/Latinx leadership and engagement in local government. You can read more about the Sanford BIC successes at; the Sanford BIC community assessment report is also available in English and Spanish at

To learn more about past BIC partnerships, visit

For questions about the webinar, application, and general BIC initiative, please contact Jessica White, BIC Researcher and Coordinator,, 919 962-2414

BICThe Latino Migration Project is a collaborative program of the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Center for Global Initiatives at UNC Chapel Hill.
The program is supported by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.



Building Integrated Communities in “Hometown News”


Click to read the article.

We are pleased to share that Building Integrated Communities is featured in the Sanford Hometown News (Magazine). Thanks again to all for joining Sanford BIC at our Community Kickoff & Celebration. Sanford BIC will continue to update Lee County residents about The Hispanic Council and other upcoming leadership opportunities. You can still read the full plan of new programs for Hispanic/Latinx residents in English or Spanish at

Queremos compartir que Building Integrated Communities aparece en la revista Sanford Hometown News (Revista). Gracias otra vez a todx por unirse a Sanford BIC para nuestro Lanzamiento y Celebración Comunitaria. Sanford BIC seguir actualizándo a los residentes del Condado de Lee sobre el Consejo Hispano y otras oportunidades de liderazgo inminentes. Todavía puede leer el plan completo de los nuevos programas para residentes hispanos/latinos en inglés o español aquí:



The Hometown News (Magazine) is continuing to be published in memory of Alexander C. Brower III to continue his legacy by Gwendolyn Oliphant who is the Registered Agent/Owner and Aunt of the late Alexander C. Brower III. Read the PDF or online version.

Sanford Mayor awards UNC BIC team key to the city


Many thanks to Sanford Building Integrated Communities (BIC) for coming together on November 12, 2016, to celebrate their incredible accomplishments. We are honored that the City of Sanford awarded keys to Latino Migration Project Director Dr. Hannah Gill and BIC Researcher and Coordinator Jessica White in recognition of the statewide BIC initiative. sanford_cropped_2Congratulations, team!


Building Integrated Communities (BIC) is a statewide initiative that helps North Carolina local governments successfully engage with immigrants and refugee populations in order to improve public safety, promote economic development, enhance communication, and improve relationships. As a result of working with BIC, local governments and diverse community stakeholders have the tools to generate locally-relevant strategies to strengthen immigrant civic engagement, linguistic achievement, and economic/educational advancement.

The program is supported by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

New Roots/Nuevas Raíces team member María Ramírez featured in SILS news


Read it now!

We are so pleased to share New Roots/Nuevas Raíces team member and current Master’s student Maria Ramirez is featured in the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) news. She and SILS alumna Jaycie Vos (MSLS ’13) presented their work with New Roots/Nuevas Raíces: Voices from Carolina del Norte at the Oral History Association Annual Meeting on October 14, 2016, in Long Beach, Calif. At the meeting, Vos, Ramirez, and New Roots Director Hannah Gill accepted the OHA’s 2016 Elizabeth B. Mason Project Award, which recognizes outstanding oral history projects.


‘Migration Narratives’ Panel Discussion Explores Immigrants’ Experience of Life in the United States


Left to right: Felicia Arriaga, doctoral candidate at Duke University; Bahij ’17; Hannah Gill, director of the Latino Migration Project and New Roots/Nuevas Raíces; Niklaus Steiner, director the Center for Global Initiatives; Laura Villa Torres, bilingual outreach assistant with New Roots/Nuevas Raíces; Ingrid Smith, manager of global events and exhibitions; Zubair ’18; Katie Bowler Young, director of Global Relations; Katy Clune ’15 M.A. Photo by Alicia Stemper.

Our own Dr. Hannah Gill, Laura Villa Torres and Felicia Arriaga shared their experiences with New Roots/Nuevas Raíces on a “Migration Narratives” panel discussion. The New Roots/Nuevas Raíces digital archive and information system is a joint effort between the Latino Migration Project, SOHP, and University Libraries.

“These perspectives are incredibly important to document because they represent a transitional time when many Latinos living in the south still have personal memories and knowledge about their country of origin and settlement in new communities in the United States,” said Hannah Gill, director of the Latino Migration Project and New Roots/Nuevas Raíces. “Thirty to forty years from now, this collection will be an invaluable resource and an historical collection about what it means to be an American.”

Read more on UNC Global

New Roots/Nuevas Raíces serves on “Migration Narratives” panel

Thank you to everyone who came out to the “Migration Narratives” panel! Special thanks to our own panelists Laura Villa Torres, Dr. Hannah Gill, and Felicia Arriaga from the New Roots/Nuevas Raíces oral history project. We enjoyed every minute!

About New Roots/Nuevas Raíces

This digital archive and information system is a joint effort between the Latino Migration Project, SOHP, and University Libraries. It’s a fully bilingual platform for sharing the oral history interviews collected as part of the New Roots: Voices from Carolina del Norte project, which focuses on stories of migration, settlement, and integration in North Carolina. Explore it now!



Felicia Arriaga (far right) spoke about her oral history on New Roots/Nuevas Raíces.


Laura Villa Torres (far left) and Dr. Hannah Gill (center) spoke about collecting narratives and disseminating stories on

Guanajuato spotlight: Tae Brown

APPLES Global Course Guanajuato (GLBL 382) is three credit spring course combines ethnographic methods, oral history, and service-learning to examine Latin American migrant perspectives. Students research and work with migrants in North Carolina and spend spring break in migrants’ home communities in Guanajuato, Mexico.

Through leadership development, experiential learning, and engaged service, Guanajuato alumni have had an incredible impact through our programs. We were pleased to sit down with the 2017 Global Course Guanajuato TA and 2016 Guanajuato alum Tae Brown.


Tae Brown, Guanajuato class of 2016

Q: Thank you for joining us! Tell us a little more about yourself.

A: From the mountains of western NC, I’m from a relatively small town called Hendersonville. From the time I could remember, I was also a community oriented individual. I was also interested in exposing myself different than what I knew. Never did I know that skill would allow me a place in the Mexican community in my hometown. With that connection made at an early age, I now reflect on several experiences that have contributed in shaping how I view the world. I was baptized, confirmed, and had my first communion in Misa Español at Immaculada Concepción. I’ve participated in several quinceañeras and traveled to México a variety of times. All of these experiences still contribute toward my direction in life as I now attend UNC Chapel Hill with a double major in Spanish Literature & Culture and Global Studies degree focused on Latin America and Social and Political Movements. I’m currently conducting research on Afro-Mexicanos, extending previous research I conducted on Afro-Latinos.
Q: We look forward to reading the results of your research! Tell us what influenced you to participate in the UNC APPLES Global Guanajuato course and alternative spring break. How did the experience impact you? 

A: Several of my hometown friends who also participated in the UNC Apples Guanajuato Course influenced my decision to participate in the course. The experience in short was life-changing in a variety of ways! After returning from the trip and with much reflection, my appreciation for my family grew exponentially. I knew that maneuvering my life’s direction wouldn’t be possible without family, but after interacting in the communities that I did in México, my appreciation for family grew. Before the trip, I found myself caught up in the hustle and bustle of being a UNC student; however, after returning from México, I began to see that there are such a variety of ways to feel fulfilled outside the traditional ways we seek as students. Lastly, the passion and work I conduct around Latino communities grew as I began to ask more questions and investigate more areas with Latin individuals. The exposure of traveling to México under the guidance of the course was truly incredible.


“…Every interaction with the kids brought a smile to my face.”

Q: That’s so wonderful to hear. What do you tell your friends when they ask you about your experiences in Guanajuato? What is your favorite memory? 

A: My most transparent memory of my trip to México are over an array of days, however they circumvent around the time we spent with the youth. Whether it be the kids making fun of my armpit hair or during an intense game of fútbol, every interaction with the kids brought a smile to my face.

Q: HA! That brings a smile to our face, too. What does Guanajuato mean to you, and why should others get involved?

You should take part in the Guanajuato trip to either gain a new perspective, continue work you’re truly passionate about, or just to learn! It’s a course designed for all individuals who are open to listening, learning, and serving!

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Tae! We look forward to hearing more about the class and trip this spring!


En Sanford aprueban medidas para lograr mayor integración de hispanos

Escrito por KARINA NEYRA, Octubre 26, 2016, 11:13 am

Sanford.- La ciudad de Sanford aprobó una serie de acciones para lograr una mayor integración de los inmigrantes hispanos que viven en el Condado Lee y que se estima representan casi un 20% de la población. El plan, aceptado por unanimidad, contempla la formación de un Consejo Hispano, mejorar el acceso al transporte, promover la comunicación y apoyar el liderazgo y la participación de los hispanos en el gobierno local.

La propuesta denominada Plan Comprensivo para la Integración de Inmigrantes fue elaborada  por líderes hispanos, personal del gobierno y otros residentes como parte de una colaboración de tres años entre la ciudad y la iniciativa Construyendo Comunidades Integradas (BIC por sus siglas en inglés) en la universidad UNC-Chapel Hill

Diversas reuniones comunitarias, encuestas y la formación de grupos de discusión, para conocer la problemática que enfrentan los inmigrantes que residen en dicho condado, así como una revisión de los datos del censo, del Departamento de Comercio de Carolina del Norte y el Sistema de Escuelas del condado Lee, permitió delinear la iniciativa.

“Finalizamos la propuesta este verano después de 2 años de conversaciones entre residentes inmigrantes de la ciudad , el condado Lee y los líderes de la ciudad de Sanford”, dijo Hanna Gill de The Latino Migration Project.

En la sesión del 18 de octubre, donde se aprobó el plan, el alcalde de Sanford, Chet Mann destacó la importancia que tiene para la ciudad el integrar a todos los residentes incluido a ese 20 por ciento de población hispana.

Indicó que la comunidad latina sigue creciendo y está contribuyendo con la ciudad. Y, que las autoridades tienen que trabajar para integrarlos y para romper las barreras existentes, utilizando las herramientas que se aprendieron durante el desarrollo del proyecto.

Ante los comentarios del alcalde, el consejal Haire dijo que incluso no le sorprendería que en el futuro hubiera un alcalde hispano, a lo cual Mann aseveró que un día habría un representante de la comunidad hispana en la consejo muncipal o en la junta de comisionados del condado  como funcionario electo.

De acuerdo al reporte del censo de 2015, el Condado Lee cuenta una población estimada de 59,660 habitantes de los cuales un 19.4% es hispana.

Liderazgo hispano
Gill destacó que un aspecto importante de las iniciativas aprobadas es la formación de un Consejo Hispano.

“Será un grupo que  dará consejo al gobierno local y dará seguimiento al trabajo realizado. Aunque está abierto para todos los residentes del condado y la ciudad, queremos que los hispanos del condado formen parte como miembros”, sostuvo Gill.

Para lograr un mayor liderazgo, se contempla  además realizar cada mes “casas abiertas” municipales para que los latinos aprendan más sobre el gobierno municipal de Sanford, así como talleres de reclutamiento para incrementar la representación latina dentro del gobierno municipal.

También se promoverá la participación de los inmigrantes en la Academia de Ciudadanos de Sanford, un programa interactivo y educativo que durará doce semanas.

Mejor comunicación
Para mejorar la comunicación se planea una restructuración en la página web de la Ciudad de Sanford que contendrá además formularios y aplicaciones en español.

Adicionalmente se creará una guía  bilingüe con recursos locales a cargo de El Refugio, Centro de Recursos Familiares.

Relación con la policía
Una de la preocupaciones expresadas por la comunidad en reuniones públicas y puestas en el reporte previo: Demografía y Perspectivas de Residentes Inmigrantes, menciona como uno de los  problemas el perfil racial con los conductores, racismo y discriminación por parte de la policía, así  la falta de seguimiento a casos criminales que involucran a hispanos.

Para mejorar el nivel de confianza con las autoridades policiales, se aprobó continuar con la vigilancia policial comunitaria que actualmente se desarrolla en vecindarios hispanos donde agentes de la policía interactuan con  los residentes para familiarizarse con sus necesidades y problemas del barrio.

Además se realizarán “reuniones del pueblo” entre la policía y residentes de vecindarios latinos por lo menos dos veces al año.

Transporte público
En enero de 2016 un grupo de trabajo logró que el Sistema de Tránsito del Condado Lee implementara una nueva ruta de autobús para brindar servicio a tres barrios de casas móviles donde en su mayoría viven inmigrantes hispanos: Thornwood, Dreamland y Pine Village, donde se colocó una parada.

Los habitantes de esa zona pueden viajar por un costo de $2.00 a cualquier destino a lo largo de la calle Hornes Boulevard.
Las acciones incluyen poner en marcha un plan de difusión en zonas de mayor concentración hispana para educar a la comunidad sobre las distintas opciones de transporte disponibles.

La presentación oficial de las actividades se realizará el 12 de noviembre durante una celebración comunitaria de 2 a 4 pm en el parque Kiwanis (800 wicker St. en Sanford).