Professor Publishes Paper Aimed at Advancing Diversity Curriculums


Norma Valenzuela

Las Vegas, N.M. – A New Mexico Highlands University Spanish professor published a study aimed at advancing higher education curriculums anchored in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Norma Valenzuela co-authored the paper in the International Journal of Curriculum and Social Justice.

“Diversity curriculums and courses help students understand the world through a different lens,” Valenzuela said. “It’s important for college students to advance their analytical and critical thinking skills through exploring historically marginalized populations such as communities of color.”

Valenzuela completed the study with three others scholar activists whose work also focuses on diversity. Like her, they are all women of color and faculty members at public universities in the American Southwest.

“As women of color, we collaborated to break institutional barriers to implementing a diversity curriculum. We navigated resistance by meeting with undergraduate and graduate students, administration and faculty, working together to educate them about the value of a diversity curriculum,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela, who joined the Highlands University faculty in the summer 2017 semester, said courses on power, privilege, oppression and social justice benefit all students in higher education.

“These courses enrich students’ understanding of contemporary issues and help prepare them to be informed global citizens,” said Valenzuela, who was born in Mexico and earned her Ph.D. in Spanish, with an emphasis in Chicano/Latino and Latin American cultural studies, from Arizona State University.

“In addition, in this kind of diversity coursework students can explore subjects like the contributions immigrants make to society,” said Valenzuela, who taught previously at Kansas State University.

At Highlands, Valenzuela teaches courses such as Beginning Spanish and Advanced Spanish Composition.

“When I advise first-generation college students like myself, I’ve been in their shoes and know the balancing act needed to successfully complete a college education with limited resources. To me, strong mentoring is crucial for these students,” said Valenzuela, the oldest of five sisters who all earned college degrees.

“Like many immigrant families, my parents brought us to the U.S. so we could have access to educational opportunities that would transform our lives. I’m thrilled to be at Highlands because I believe it’s the kind of accessible institution that serves students needs, no matter what walk of life they come from,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela’s research is published in scholarly publications such as the Journal of Chicana/Latina Studies. She also published a 2012 book about the documentaries of Lourdes Portillo, an award-winning Mexican-American filmmaker. 

“My book explores how Portillo portrays empowered women and power relations in U.S. and Latino societies that are patriarchal. These women use their voices to be agents of social change,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela is a frequent presenter at national and international scholarly conferences such as the Southwest Council on Latin American Studies and Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (Active Women Writing in Social Change.)

Valenzuela completed postdoctoral studies at the University of New Mexico. She also holds an M.A. in language and culture from Arizona State University.