Story posted July 10, 2012
Kris Klein obtained Honors in Latin American Studies for his thesis, “Ugly Betty and Four Latina Narratives of Identity,” under the direction of Elena Cueto Asín. He has been active in the Latin American Student Organization at Bowdoin, has continued to do service in Uganda since receiving a Career Planning Center Public Interest Grant a few years ago, is a Mellon Mays Fellow, and was admitted to several graduate programs, among which he chose the Border Studies program in the University of Texas-El Paso, where he will start this fall.
“In my experience, the LAS department feels like a family; they are committed to helping you grow as a person, analyze like a scholar and find your academic niche. I will miss my family, my LAS family who has truly defined my career here at Bowdoin.”
Tell us about your Honors Project thesis and how you conceived the idea.
The interest for my thesis project is personal; I was raised by exceptional role models, like my grandmother and mother. Growing up, they were glued to the telenovela and explained to me how it spoke to them about the world. My thesis examines the TV series Ugly Betty, a hybrid American telenovela/sitcom, and how it incorporates contemporary Latina images. I contrast Ugly Betty with different patterns of identity construction in four narrative works written by influential Latina authors in the last few decades, and study how self-identification is negotiated in tension with hegemonic prescribed ideals of gendered and ethnic roles.
What have the Mellon Mays Program and LASO meant for your academic and personal growth?
Together, the Mellon Mays Program and LASO have contributed to an evolution in my academic and personal interests. The Mellon provided me the opportunity to engage in research with several of the professors situated in LAS. During my sophomore year (and still today), I worked with Elena Cueto Asin on television studies, looking at the production and caricature of the telenovela. During my senior year, I was able to work with Nadia Celis on Caribbean gender and with Mariana Cruz on education and LatCrit (Latino Critical Theory). LASO has always served as a home base during my four years. We are a strong network of Latinos here at Bowdoin, and LASO is the place where we meet, learn and most of all, support each other in our endeavors.
How have community engagement and off-campus study helped shape your profile as a major?
I had always believed my future belonged in teaching. My first year summer I was granted a CPC Public Interest Fund to teach in Gulu, Uganda; this experience confirmed my passion for education and teaching. Because I knew what profession I wanted to work in, junior year was spent studying abroad or two semesters in Mendoza, Argentina to study Latin American literature. That summer, I was awarded funding from the Mellon to conduct a second summer study abroad in Maceió, Brazil, where I studied Nordestino (People from Northeast Brazil) identity and Portuguese language. All of these experiences have continued to illustrate the complex nature of Latin America and the necessity of education to comprehend her singularity in cultures, races, ethnicities and legends.
Why did you choose the Graduate Program in Texas-El Paso?
Beside the fact that I am from El Paso originally and most of my Tías live there, I chose El Paso because of its proximity to the U.S./Mexico Border, which is integral to my research. I hope to study borderlands as a concept, as a practice and as an identification point for identity. The LAS major has prepared me to think through different mediums – literature, history, art and film/television – and scrutinize the intricate relationships between institutions and people, cultures and traditions.
Any dreams about your future?
Pues, I am currently working on a novel that I will continue to write during the summer here at Bowdoin, while I work with Mellon program. I am excited to finish it and hopefully one of my literature professors, Gustavo Faverón, will read it! As for long term plans, I hope to teach Latin@ studies somewhere, a field that continues to evolve, just like its peoples. Gracias.
I am currently working on a novel that I will continue to write during the summer here at Bowdoin, while I work with Mellon program. I am excited to finish it and hopefully one of my literature professors, Gustavo Faverón, will read it!
— Kristopher Klein ‘12