Sandra McGee Deutsch (MALAS 1973 and PhD History 1979), Suzana Padua (MALAS 1991), and Nicolás Rubio (MALAS 2006)
February 2, 2011
In this interview, we highlight the careers of three alumni who participated in the annual conference and who are employed in non-profit and public service jobs. They are Sandra McGee Deutsch (MALAS 1973 and Ph.D. History 1979), Suzana Padua (MALAS 1991), and Nicolás Rubio (MALAS 2006).
SMD: I am a Professor of History at University of Texas at El Paso. I specialize in 20th century Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. I teach courses on South America, Caribbean/Central America, Latin American women and gender, Latin American Jews, and other post-independence topics.
SP: I am the President of IPÊ (Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas) and I teach classes for short-term, non-degree programs and a Master's program.
NR: I work for the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in Washington DC as a commodity analyst covering the U.S. rice export markets in the Western Hemisphere and North Asia. Prior to this position, I was part of teams within FAS ensuring the enforcement and implementation of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and the United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement.
SMD: I especially enjoy the contact with students and the research opportunities.
SP: I enjoy seeing our young professionals flourish and become involved in issues that make a difference. When they are able to find what they like and acquire the determination to pursue quality in whatever they do, it gives us a feeling that we are on the right track.
NR: There are two things I enjoy the most about my job: a) the opportunities to travel to Latin America to understand the market situation and distribution of grains in these countries and b) having access to various resources dealing with international affairs and business. It helps me keep up with current events!
SMD: The MALAS program was useful in getting me started on my research path, acquainting me with prominent experts in the field, and awakening interdisciplinary interests.
SP: The interdisciplinary approach of the MALAS program influenced Claudio, my husband, and I when we founded our institution IPE. We have integrated theory with practice of the social and the environmental spheres. We particularly used these principles when we conceptualized the courses for our Master's program. We teach a seminar course, which is similar to what we experienced at MALAS. In this course, we cover many aspects that are important for conservation, but that are not typically included in a Master's program in Ecology. For example, we discuss environmental ethics, environmental education, community-based ecotourism, conflict resolution, green economy, carbon offsets estimates, and so on. After being exposed to these fields, students are asked to come up with creative alternatives to real problems, usually helping partners reach more sustainable solutions. This may be a little different from the MALAS approach, but the program at UF was innovative when we studied there in the late 80s, and I am afraid it still is when compared with the overall Brazilian academic world.
NR: The MALAS degree prepared me in many important ways. For example, it gave me an excellent academic background on the region and helped me further develop my research and communication skills. On a personal level, it gave more assurance about the type of work I wanted to do in Latin America.
SMD: I especially remember how William Carter, Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the time, gave me extra encouragement and support.
SP: I remember participating in the Amazonian Seminar that Marianne Schmink taught. Each student in the class wrote a final paper on a topic of their own interest and then presented it to the class. One of the students was interested in mosses and I had no idea if she was speaking of an animal, an ethnic group or a climate characteristic. Only when she was finished did I understand she was speaking of a type of plant. So, the diversity in the class was great and helped us learn with open minds, respecting what others had to offer.
In family terms, I was happy to have the security of counting on Baby Gator to leave my younger child, Joana. Two days a week I left her very early and picked her up late in the afternoon. I always felt guilty and arrived at the school with a pain in my heart, but she was always happy and many times even said: "Hi Mom, you are already here to pick me up?" This gave me such a good feeling that she was well taken care of while I was busy studying. For a mother, this is critical for all the rest to be achieved.
NR: There are so many stories and memories! After seven years in Gainesville, my heart is still there! The best memories at the Center are the times I spent at the Computer Lab on the third floor of Grinter Hall. I never knew who I was going to run into in that room. However, I did know that I was going to discuss random topics about politics, the Gators, projects, classes, professors, trips, and many others.