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Nov. 28, 2017

Yomaira Figueroa: Inspiring students through literature

Nov. 29, 2017

Raised in Hoboken, New Jersey, the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, Yomaira Figueroa thought college was not a possibility for people like her, despite that she became the first person in her family to go to college.

Now an assistant professor of global African diaspora studies in the Department of English, Figueroa is inspiring new generations of students and exposing them to whole new worlds of literature.

“I am committed to these students, to making sure they know there is someone here who is first-generation, someone who is Afro-Latina, someone who has had similar experiences,” Figueroa said. “Many students of color, they see themselves for the first time, or they get to see themselves here in this place that they may not think is for them in a similar way I did when I went to college. My job is to help them achieve success in the classroom and going forward.”

Through her research and the courses she teaches, Figueroa is shining a spotlight on Afro-Latinx literature, Latinx Caribbean literature and literature from Spanish-speaking Africa.

“I’m interested in what these literatures can offer us in the context of history, culture, social justice, but also in terms of what they can tell us about the world we live in,” Figueroa said. “So many students who come to me who want to do work on Afro-Diasporic literature or ethnic studies have always wanted to do it, but felt they couldn’t.”

Watch the short video above to learn more about Figueroa

Reused with permission from the College of Arts and Letters Dean's Report