Alumni Portal

It’s Time!

Latino Migration Project alumni are blazing trails in their chosen career paths…and they’ve got our attention. That’s why we’ve renamed this “Alumni Portal” to reflect what our accomplished, diverse, and motivated students really are: professionals.

Through leadership development, experiential learning, and engaged service, LMP Professionals have had an incredible impact through our programs, and continue to make their mark in their careers.

Network with your professional peers, find your dream job, share your experiences, and consider giving back to the next generation of leaders. Meet featured Mexico Connections and LTAM Major* alumni now.

* About the LTAM Major
The BA in Latin American studies, offered by the Curriculum in Latin American Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, is designed to foster intellectual engagement with a region of extraordinary diversity and rich cultural complexity, within an interdisciplinary but integrated framework.

Felicia Arriaga

Meet Alumni Leadership Committee Member, Felicia Arriaga

Felicia Arriaga
“For me, the project is a valuable resource where the stories of immigrants and those working with immigrants can be easily accessed.”

The Latino Migration Project (LMP) is pleased to announce the creation of a new alumni leadership committee that will help ensure the legacy of LMP’s work in the coming years. Committee members will advise and coordinate with the LMP team on communication, upcoming events, and growth goals.

We first met Felicia Arriaga as the LMP ambassador, and now are so delighted to introduce her as a founding committee member.

Q: Felicia, thank you so much for joining us! First, please tell us more about yourself.
A: I’m from Hendersonville, NC and I’ve lived in Durham for the past 7 years, attending Duke University. I’m a third year PhD student in Sociology and I study the use of federal immigration enforcement at the local level of the criminal justice system.

Q: Tell us more about brought you to the Latino Migration Project. How did the experience impact you?
A: I think I read Mai Thi Nguyen and Hannah Gill’s report on 287(g) programs in the fall of 2013 while trying to put together a literature review for my proposed dissertation research. It was a fortunate coincidence that they are both here at UNC. After a little bit of research, I discovered that Hannah taught a really interesting course and as a graduate student I had the option of taking courses at UNC-CH, NC State, and NCCU. Unfortunately, there is not an immigration course offered in my home department, but I contacted Hannah to see if she would allow me to enroll in the Global Guanajuato course. I was able to participate in the course in the spring of 2014 and then I became the TA in the spring of 2015. I have learned so much about UNC students, about Guanajuato, about teaching, and so much more. This really is a great project where students can learn about the local and the global.

Q: What do you tell your friends when they ask you about your experiences in Guanajuato? What’s your favorite memory?
A: Well, the first year I went to Guanajuato, I was definitely impressed by La Fundacion. When I was able to return this past spring, I was impressed by the progress they had made in Trancas. We were able to have movie nights with the youth in the new community center and we got to spend time with members of the neighborhood association. This year when we traveled to Mineral de Pozos, we were able to see the variety of projects being supported by La Fundacion. Another fun memory is the photo shoot that occurs near this old van in Pozos, courtesy of Michele from La Fundacion.

Q: What does the Latino Migration Project mean to you? Why should others care or get involved?
A: There are so many aspects of the Latino Migration Project that I can use in my teaching and community work. For me, the project is a valuable resource where the stories of immigrants and those working with immigrants can be easily accessed. I had the opportunity to conduct four oral histories for New Roots with Latino/a educators in North Carolina who are actively working to promote Latino/a student success. In many regards they were pioneers in the K-12 teaching profession and I think it’s important to raise up their stories and to recognize challenges that still exist in our education system for Latino/a students.

Q: When you’re not pursuing your PhD, what do you enjoy doing?
A: I love meeting new people so I try to go to a lot of different events, rallies, etc. I think it energizes me to know there are so many great groups out there working for social justice. I really enjoy being secluded without access to internet, facebook, etc. We don’t have internet at my house in Hendersonville, NC and growing up I thought it was a pain, but now it’s a blessing. I try to spend as much time with my familly and friends when I go home, and during the summer that means going swimming, hiking.

Thank you so much, Felicia! We look forward to a great year!

Michelle Carreño

Taking the Road Less Traveled

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. 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.

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!

Alex Dest

Meet Alumni Leadership Committee Member, Alex Dest

Alex Dest
“I think what sets the LMP apart is that it works with both local communities and those abroad to facilitate dialogue around Latinos’ experiences and to make real change.”

The Latino Migration Project (LMP) is pleased to announce the creation of a new alumni leadership committee that will help ensure the legacy of LMP’s work in the coming years. Committee members will advise and coordinate with the LMP team on communication, upcoming events, and growth goals.

We are so delighted to introduce founding member, Alex Dest.

Q: Alex, thank you so much for joining us! First, please tell us more about yourself.
A: Hi everyone! In 2014, I graduated from UNC with a dual BA in Latin American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies. While at UNC, I was a mentor for SLI, volunteered at El Pueblo, and was part of the Latino Migration Project’s summer internship. After graduation, I started working at El Pueblo where I coordinate a sexual health education program for Latino teens.

Q: Tell us more about what brought you to the Latino Migration Project. How did the experience impact you?
A: What attracted me to the program was the opportunity to see another side of immigration. Before volunteering with the LMP, my experience with immigration had mainly been limited to the work I did with Latinos at a local level in North Carolina. One of the most important things that I came away with at the end of the summer was a better understanding of the struggles and hardships faced by those in these communities who don’t emigrate —a story that I don’t think we hear very often.

Q: What do you tell your friends when they ask you about your experiences in Guanajuato? What’s your favorite memory?
A: I usually tell people that my summer in Guanajuato was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve had. Living in such an isolated, rural community was a big adjustment for me, but getting to work with the youth and hearing the stories of other community members really made the experience worthwhile. I also love sharing the pictures I took while I was in Guanajuato because they show a way of life that is so difficult to portray with just words.

Probably one of my favorite memories was coming home late every night from the school to drink hot chocolate and eat sweet bread with my host mom. It was such a simple and comforting way to end the day and quite a few of our late night conversations left a significant impression on me.

Q: What does the Latino Migration Project mean to you? Why should others care or get involved?
A: My internship with the Latino Migration Project was such an important experience for me and really informs the work that I continue to do. I think what sets the LMP apart is that it works with both local communities and those abroad to facilitate dialogue around Latinos’ experiences and to make real change.

Q: When you’re not in the office, what do you enjoy doing?
In my free time, I really enjoy making pottery. It’s a hobby I picked up recently, so there’s still quite a bit of mess-ups, but it’s really nice to have a creative outlet. Plus, the pieces that aren’t horrible make good gifts!

Thank you, Alex! We’re looking forward to a great year!

Shaw Drake

A LTAM major finds his path as immigration human rights advocate

Shaw Drake

The Latin American Studies Undergraduate major, LTAM, provides students with the opportunity to master multiple methodological skills and acquire the language competence through which to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the Latin American and Caribbean experience. In preparing students for public and private sector careers, LTAM alumni have gotten jobs in the U.S. State Department in a number of different Latin American countries, transnational companies that operate in the US and Latin America, and in non-profit organizations that work with migrants in the United States.

We had the pleasure of sitting down one of these accomplished alums, Shaw Drake.

When he’s not being published in the New York Times, Huffington Post, or jurist, Shaw Drake, UNC ’10, works as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Human Rights First in New York City, NY. The Georgetown University Law Center graduate has experiences ranging from conducting legal research on surveillance of human rights lawyers in Colombia, studying judicial independence in Guatemala, serving as a Military Commission observer in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, supporting survivors of torture from over 90 countries in accessing legal, psychological, and medical services at the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, as well as conducting an extensive fact-finding project regarding stateless children’s access to education in the Dominican Republic.

Having grown up in Greensboro, NC, Drake experienced an initial interest in migration after working with refugee families and going on a trip to Guanajuato, Mexico. When he came to UNC, Drake found the Latin American Studies major as a good fit for his interests.

“The major is a balance of being small and involved in the community, but broad enough to also be involved in bigger opportunities,” said Drake.

One of those bigger opportunities was Drake’s junior year spring break when he had the chance to work with No More Deaths, a humanitarian organization recommended to him by Latino Migration Project Director Dr. Hannah Gill. Drake was so impacted by the experience that upon returning, he changed the topic of his honors thesis to write about the U.S. border enforcement strategy and human rights on the Arizona-Mexico border.

A double major in LTAM and Romance Languages, which is common for the majority of Latin American Studies majors, Drake said being an LTAM major gives students an opportunity to look at a dynamic part of the world from historical, political, and human rights perspectives, and teaches students ways to critically examine future challenges.

“The LTAM major gives you the latitude to pursue interests and encourages you to take on a wide variety of disciplines,” said Drake. “Take it on and view it as an opportunity to examine a dynamic and amazing part of our world.”

Many thanks to Shaw Drake for sitting down with us, we look forward to the great things he will continue to do!

As of August 2019, Drake serves as Policy Counsel at the ACLU Texas Border Rights Center.

Katie Gutt

Meet Alumni Committee Member, Katie Gutt

Katie Gutt
“My favorite memory is sitting at the kitchen table in our host home in Trancas and listening to our host father tell us stories about the twenty times he had migrated to the US. I will never forget how openly he shared his stories and how eagerly he wanted us to understand what the experience is like.”

The Latino Migration Project (LMP) is pleased to announce the creation of a new alumni leadership committee that will help ensure the legacy of LMP’s work in the coming years. Committee members will advise and coordinate with the LMP team on communication, upcoming events, and growth goals.

Last week we were delighted to introduce founding members Felicia Arriaga and Alex Dest. Today, we are pleased to present founding member, Katie Gutt.

Q: Katie, thank you so much for joining us! First, please tell us more about yourself.
A: Hi! I’m from Weddington, North Carolina. This weekend I will graduate from UNC with a double major in Hispanic linguistics and Latin American studies. During my time at UNC, I volunteered with Enrich ESL and El Centro Hispano. I also took Dr. Gill’s Latino Migration Perspectives course in the Spring of 2015.

Q: Tell us more about brought you to the Latino Migration Project. How did the experience impact you?
A: I was inspired to apply for the Global Guanajuato course after talking to some classmates who had taken the class in 2014. It seemed to be the perfect way to draw together my interests NC’s recent history and community service. The class and the trip to Guanajuato have challenged me and changed me in ways I never expected. I only wish I had been able to take the course sooner, so that my experiences could have informed my work with the Chapel Hill/Carrboro immigrant community earlier in my college career.

Q: We love that it had such an impact on you. What do you tell your friends when they ask you about your experiences in Guanajuato? What’s your favorite memory?
A: I think the most important thing I’ve shared is the value of the conversations you have with community members in Guanajuato. Learning about immigration from the people who have migrated, the people who have never migrated, and the children who have families split by migration is invaluable to understanding the immigrant community in the United States. My favorite memory is sitting at the kitchen table in our host home in Trancas and listening to our host father tell us stories about the twenty times he had migrated to the US. I will never forget how openly he shared his stories and how eagerly he wanted us to understand what the experience is like.

Q: What does the Latino Migration Project mean to you? Why should others care or get involved?
A: The Latino Migration Project has inspired me to seek a career in serving the immigrants in my community. Before taking the Global Guanajuato course, I did not have a clear plan for after graduation. This course showed me the many ways I can advocate for change in the treatment of immigrants and create a more welcoming environment in the state I have called home for more than 20 years. I think everyone could benefit from learning about immigration from an immigrant’s point of view. Luckily, LMP helps facilitate this exchange with the New Roots oral history project, training students on how to conduct oral history interviews, and providing a course that informs students of the immigrant experience.

Q: Of course we have to ask the biggest question—what are your plans for after graduation?
After graduation I will be working as a programming intern with the Rural Education Institute of Mexico— back in Guanajuato! I will be working with a couple others to plan and implement after school programs in two towns near San Miguel de Allende. The goal of the programs is to address high dropout rates by providing tutoring and activities to keep kids interested in learning. I’m so excited to start this position in September!

Q: We look forward to the great work you will do! When you weren’t in class, what do you enjoy doing?
I love to read! I’ve amassed a collection of books from my travels, and I’m just now getting into books I bought more than a year ago. It’s great to revisit places I’ve been through the works of their famous authors.

Thank you so much, Katie! We look forward to a great year!

Hetali Lodaya

Meet Guanajuato alumna Hetali Lodaya

Hetali Lodaya
“My favorite memory is chatting with the daughters of a host family whose father had worked in the United States for years to save up money – he now lived at home and they had a much higher standard of living than they would have otherwise. His daughters had defined career aspirations and goals – they complained about school just like any teenager, but it was clear that his migration, even if not permanent, had created an environment for them where they could have that drive. That’s what it’s about, at the end of the day – everyone just wants the best for their loved ones.”

APPLES Global Course Guanajuato (GLBL 382) is a three-credit spring course that 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, and continue to make their mark in their careers. One of these professionals we had the pleasure of connecting with is Hetali Lodaya.

Q: Hetali, thank you so much for joining us! First, please tell us more about yourself.
A: I graduated in 2014 – I majored in Chemistry and Public Policy, and was very involved in the Campus Y and entrepreneurship communities at UNC. Post-grad, I moved to San Antonio with the Venture for America Fellowship to work for a nonprofit that creates entrepreneurship education programs for K-12. I still work for them, though I’m back in Chapel Hill for a year before going to graduate school!

Q: Congratulations on graduate school! Tell us more about what brought you to participate in UNC APPLES Global Guanajuato. How did the experience impact you?
A: I needed to take an APPLES course for Public Service Scholars and was really excited by the learning opportunity this one presented. I went to high school with a lot of students whose families had come from Mexico, but I had so little interaction with them it was like we lived in two different worlds even though we were physically in the same space. Living in Chapel Hill was the first time I had ever lived in a community with such a large immigrant population, and I realized that I knew almost nothing about their experiences.

Q: What are you up to now? How have your experiences in Guanajuato influenced your career trajectory?
A: Moving to San Antonio brought me to another community with a large Mexican-American population, many recent immigrants – working in education there, my experience in Global Guanajuato made me much more aware of the fact that students’ journeys to the United States so often informed the person that they were in the classroom. That perspective is something I think will continue to be key for me in this field.

Q: We love that the course has influenced you in that way. What do you tell your friends when they ask you about your experiences in Guanajuato? What’s your favorite memory?
A: I tell them about the people that I met! In all different kinds of communities, from all walks of life – I learned so much about how migration affects people in different ways. My favorite memory is chatting with the daughters of a host family whose father had worked in the United States for years to save up money – he now lived at home and they had a much higher standard of living than they would have otherwise. His daughters had defined career aspirations and goals – they complained about school just like any teenager, but it was clear that his migration, even if not permanent, had created an environment for them where they could have that drive. That’s what it’s about, at the end of the day – everyone just wants the best for their loved ones.

Q: Absolutely! We have to say though, one of our favorite memories from your class is when you all danced to Pharrell’s “Happy.” What does Guanajuato mean to you, and why should others get involved?
My Global Guanajuato experience allows me to be informed and active on issues of immigration – especially in today’s political climate, I think it’s so important to speak from personal experience and facts. This class will push you, challenge you, clarify your beliefs, and show you a side to the migration story you probably don’t know – if that’s not enough reasons to apply, you’ll have a ton of fun with an awesome group of people! Do it!