MALAS Student Merges Activism and Academics

August 26, 2013

In Fall 2013, the LAII welcomed a dynamic cohort of students into its Masters of Arts in Latin American Studies (MALAS) program. Sarah Leister (MALAS '15) is among this cohort and has selected concentrations in Anthropology and Sociology.

As an undergraduate majoring in Spanish and Latin American Studies, Sarah spent a year volunteering and studying in Costa Rica and Argentina. Personal contacts in her host countries along with continued study at her home university led Sarah to Honduras; there she conducted research which investigated the role of religion in the resistance movement that arose in opposition to the 2009 coup d'état. Sarah became involved in various activism groups throughout her undergraduate career, including School of the Americas Watch, a grassroots movement whose aim is to close the School of the Americas and change U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.

After graduating from American University, Sarah spent two years as a member of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. Through this program, she was employed full time as a CaseWorker at La Clínica del Pueblo, a community health center that serves the Latino and immigrant populations of Washington D.C. There Sarah became familiar with the complexity of the healthcare system, legal system, education system, and other institutions that often exclude the low-income Spanish-speaking patients of La Clínica through lack of language access, high financial costs, cultural insensitivity, discrimination, and other factors.

Her work as an undergraduate and at La Clínica brought her to UNM where she hopes to continue her studies on both health justice and social movements while maintaining her commitment to activism; for Sarah "activism and academics are inseparable".