Jose Fernandez Guerrero

Class of 2018

Hometown: Tijuana, Mexico

What is your College Scholar project?
My research is an analytical approach to the challenges minority languages face in education and other institutions. By examining the socio-political contexts of various communities in the Americas, Europe and Oceania, I plan to cohesively address how knowing minority languages have faced multiple obstacles whose aim is cultural erasure. What specific obstacles exist to learning and teaching such languages, as opposed to the language spoken by the elite?

For my College Scholar Program proposal, I have drawn information from courses in linguistics, cognitive science, anthropology, government and philosophy. For example, LING 2248: Native American Languages taught me about Pan-American aboriginal peoples and their languages and struggles, which clearly ties to the proposal (Minority Languages: Policies, Education and Development). Other courses such as FREN 3590: Haitian Literature and Culture have helped me just as much in my formation; the course was conducted exclusively in French (with the exception of some texts in Haitian Creole) and focuses on socio-political issues in Haiti – from its revolution to post-earthquake relief. This course proved extremely valuable because it provided specific real-world examples of the dissonance there is in language education and how it is tied to racial and political views.  Overall, the College Scholar Program is training me further to become an independent researcher, and explore my own ideas through various sources. I would thus encourage others to explore this interdisciplinary alternative. I love that I am exploring what sparks my curiosity.

I have attended the annual Symposium on American Indian Languages (SAIL) at RIT twice and met more linguists and community members who aim to bridge the gap between linguistics research and practical language teaching of native languages. I plan to attend more conferences and get the chance to present my own research findings at some point during my junior year.

What are your most important extra-curricular activities?
Before my freshman year, I thankfully participated in the Pre-Freshman Summer Program (PSP). PSP’s aim is to help low income and underrepresented students adjust to college life; and I can definitely say it helped me hone the networking skills I needed to become a proactive student. Most importantly, PSP supplied me with my Cornell family, that socio-emotional base required to become a successful person. PSP is a program I am proud to be associated with and one I recognize to have been indispensable for my personal and academic achievements. 

As the language geek that I am, I have become actively involved in the Language Pairing Program, an organization under the Public Service Center that promotes language learning. The LPP is a demonstration of how people from all kinds of backgrounds may connect through language, by learning from one another. I am also part of the Armenian Students Organization and the Von Cramm Cooperative House, both welcoming multicultural communities that eagerly seek to share their experiences and learn from one another.

Talk about any summer internships or programs you’ve attended?
The summer after my freshman year I spent two months in Haiti with le Centre d'Éducation Inclusif, a Haitian foundation started by a Cornell alumna. With CEI, I was able to learn about the challenges that people with disabilities face in the Haitian education system as well as the complicated NGO culture that exists in developing countries.  
The summer after sophomore year, I will be working  under the supervision of Dr. Gabriella Caballero at UCSD's linguistics department. The experience will consist of using language documentation programs and analyzing two distinct indigenous languages: Kumiai and Rarámuri. I aim to learn more about fieldwork and challenges that arise when working with small linguistic communities.

What do you dream of doing after graduation?
By the time graduation arrives, I plan to have entered a graduate program in Linguistics. As my College Scholar project shows, I have a broad range of interests that I wish to explore by staying in academia. Language documentation and preservation are ultimately the areas I would like to continue investigating, and the possibilities available in these areas are quite diverse. I dream that through the skills I am developing, I may help communities preserve their culture, regardless of their geographic location. I might become a professor someday!