Katie Coldiron

MA Latin American Studies Alumna, 2017

May 31, 2022

Katie Coldiron graduated from the University of Florida in 2017 with an MA in Latin American Studies. She is currently the Digital Archivist of the Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab at Florida International University.

What is your current position?

I am the Digital Archivist of the Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab, an emerging preeminent program at Florida International University in Miami, FL. I will also be a PhD student in History at FIU this coming fall semester.

What motivated you to pursue a MALAS degree?

I entered the MALAS program immediately after graduating from college. Up until that point, I had spent my entire life in rural Kentucky, so I knew I wanted something different from that. Additionally, I did not find my interest in Latin America until later in college; I studied abroad for a semester in Mexico during the second half of my junior year. Upon returning to complete my senior year, I dedicated myself to improving my Spanish via additional coursework and an internship at a local social service agency for Central American migrant farmworkers. I was lucky enough to meet and take classes with two professors, one in Spanish and the other a sociologist from Argentina, that gave me the confidence to apply to and recommended me for graduate programs in Latin American Studies. I applied to three in total, all in states with large Latin American/Latinx diasporas and was accepted to two. Touring campus (coming from a small college, I was shocked that an entire library was dedicated to Latin America), sitting in on a class, and talking to the late Dr. Richmond Brown are what sold me on coming to UF.

How does your MALAS degree help you in your job today? How has it informed your career?

It was by coming to UF that I got to know the state of Florida at large, and especially South Florida. I have no doubt that being in Florida inspired me to gear my MALAS studies towards Cuba. The Center has always had unique ties to Cuba, and the bust of José Martí that sits in the Center was done by Juan José Sicre, who also made the large Martí statue in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. When I got to the Center and needed a job, I was pointed towards the Latin American and Caribbean Collection library, which is one of my favorite places I have ever worked. From there, I ended up in another library job in Cataloging, and then following my graduation, I went to work on a digitization project in Cuba on behalf of the UF Libraries. After that, I wound up at the University of Texas at Austin doing another master’s, this time in Information Studies, and I graduated from that program in Spring 2021. I firmly believe that having done the MALAS degree, as well as the accompanying professional experiences I previously mentioned, were crucial for me to land the position I currently have, and one in Miami at that. So, in a way, I’ve come full circle by both coming back to Florida and living in the center of the Cuban Diaspora outside of the island.

What was the most valuable part of your MALAS experience?

The other MALAS students, hands down. The Center has always done a really good job of bringing students together into these unique and diverse cohorts, and mine was no exception. The most rewarding part of the experience in the program for me was this group of friends I made, many of whom remain some of my closest friends to this day. We are from all over and have unique interests and experiences but come together on a shared passion for the region.

What advice would you give students as they pursue their MALAS degree and/or graduate with a MALAS degree?

First, going off my answer to the previous question, the other students in the program are some of your best resources, whether it be for research advice, finding funding opportunities, or even travel companions. Secondly, take advantage of every opportunity because one always leads to another. Finally, I would say just believe in yourself, and know that just being in and graduating from this amazing program, one of the oldest of its kind, will open doors for you for the rest of your career.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience in the MALAS program?

I came to MALAS not really knowing who I was, but with vague ideas of who I wanted to be. It was a lifechanging experience, and without it I would not have met my partner (Juan Rojas, MALAS 2022) nor would I be where I am at in my career now, knowing fully who I am and where I am going.