Joined USJ: 2007
Linking Belonging and Learning
As demographic change accelerates, successful teachers will need to skillfully navigate the varying circumstances of children in their classroom — more students of color, more for whom English is a second language, more living in poverty. Enrique Sepúlveda knows that background first-hand, because he has lived it.
In a series of curriculum-based activities that form the core of his teaching, he leads students on an experiential journey that moves them beyond theoretical to visceral understanding of what it is like to feel as if you don't belong with your fellow students, and the significant adverse impact that has on one's ability to learn. His goal: students who are "intellectually deep and culturally astute" — because it will make them stronger teachers.
Blending Academic Accomplishment and Life Experience
Sepúlveda was attracted to USJ by its pervasive "social justice" framework, which values life experiences, and understands what he can bring to his students — a unique blend of academic credentials (in Anthropology and Education) and real life that is strikingly different from most faculty students will encounter. The son of migrant workers, his childhood was as much grounded in Mexico as the U.S., and he spoke Spanish, not English, growing up. When he began grade school, English was, quite literally, a culture shock. It led his early educators to wrongly conclude his ability was limited.
Connecting Through Research and Community
Sepúlveda's research focuses on creating communities of what he calls “belonging,” whereby students comfortable in their education setting are more likely to be better learners. He recently completed a yearlong research leave in Spain, serving as a visiting professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid. There, Sepúlveda conducted ethnographic research with Latin American immigrant youth on issues related to belonging, citizenship, and civic participation. A book he is co-editing, Global Latin(o) Americanos: Transoceanic Diasporas and Regional Migrations, will be published in November 2015 by Oxford University Press. It provides an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the migrations, transnational practices, identities, and citizenship concerns of Latino migrants in places around the globe. Sepúlveda’s article on “Education and the Production of Diasporic Citizens in El Salvador” was published in the Harvard Educational Review.
Throughout his teaching, research, and travels, Sepúlveda remains consistently encouraged by what people can accomplish, if given genuine opportunity. And he is particularly energized by the growth he sees in his students, as they recognize and internalize that a little understanding can go a very long way.
Ph.D. In Education, University of California, Davis
Teaching and administrative credentials, California State University, Sacramento
B.A in Liberal Arts, California State University, Stanislaus