Juan Loayza-Miranda on Investing in Students’ Intersectional Identities

Learning about social problems is something many young students experience during their undergraduate careers. As the College of Arts and Sciences is centered around putting knowledge into practice, some of our majors focus on taking this knowledge a step further and cultivating a passion to become a part of the solution to those problems. As upcoming graduate Juan Loayza-Miranda learned as a Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) major, being a part of the solution is what GWS is all about. After switching his major every semester of college, going through thirteen in total, he found himself inspired by this aspect of GWS. As a Hispanic student who has attended predominately white institutions his whole life, Loayza-Miranda often felt overlooked by educators. He found that in GWS he never received such treatment; rather, he experienced active support from students and faculty. “They were able to actually give me advice and talk to me like a real person and give me a spotlight to voice these issues and make a way to actually solve it, not just talk about it,” he says.

The culture of support within GWS offered him a special sense of personal growth and preparedness for what will come after graduating. “Within the personal growth aspect, it’s definitely given me an intersectional lens,” Loayza-Miranda says. “It’s allowed me to develop a lot of strong interpersonal skills, a lot of communication skills.” He highlights the continued commitment to putting knowledge into practice. “It’s also prepared me for real world scenarios,” he notes. “By having all these skills and actually utilizing them from all the courses you’ve taken, it makes dialogue and communication between parties very effective.” He continues: “It finally allows for experiences to be told in the most raw manner that they can be given in order for people to understand.”

Between his experiences growing up and in studying GWS, Loayza-Miranda is certain he will go into the field higher education and work to support disadvantaged and underrepresented students. He will graduate this May with his B.A. — a double major in Gender and Women’s Studies and Human and Family Development Studies with a minor in Leadership Studies. He has been accepted into multiple graduate programs for higher education. “My short term goal is to graduate with my degree in higher ed and from there use all three of my degrees and focus on studying where I see the dissociation of students of color and where their experiences in higher ed has failed them,” he says. In the long run, he hopes to work with policymakers and other institutions to influence higher ed learning and curriculum to be more inclusive as well as to emphasize courses like those in GWS that build cultural competency.

~Written by Sabrinna Fogarty