International Studies Graduate Changes Her Global Perspective
As a freshman, Claudia Espinosa thought she would spend college with her flute in practice rooms and performance halls. She never dreamed she would promote trade justice by distributing fair trade bananas coffee and chocolate. She never imagined she would learn about social justice while traveling in Mexico and Argentina or that she would grant Micro-Credit loans to struggling entrepreneurs across the world.
Espinosa changed her major from music to International Studies, thereby changing the course of her life and her total global perspective. The daughter of first-generation immigrants from Mexico, and the first female in her family to graduate from college, Claudia will be honored as the Center for International Studies Outstanding Graduate.
“The classes I took really challenged me to think about the issues that are important to me as a Catholic, but that I had never really been able to sit down and think about before,” Espinosa said. “My education at UST gave me a solid foundation for what I believe in and for the work I want to do. The Center for International Studies was such an amazing program. It really prepared me for graduate school.”
She plans to attend the University of California at San Diego and pursue a master’s degree in Pacific International Affairs. Eventually, she would like to become a professor and raise a family.
“Claudia is a shining example of a determined student who took full advantage of the opportunities that the University of St. Thomas offers its students,” said Dr. Gustavo Wensjoe, associate professor and director of the Center for International Studies. “She seized those opportunities and now she is bound toward a prestigious graduate school.”
Like many students, Espinosa worked part-time to put herself through college. Tutoring fellow UST students at the Learning and Writing Center, giving private flute lessons, and tutoring Houston middle school students didn’t stop her from being active on campus. Espinosa was involved with the International Studies Society, and served as the Vice President for Loan Administration for the Micro-Credit Program. She studied abroad in both Mérida, Mexico and Argentina.
“The studies abroad really gave me a more panoramic view of Latin America. I had been to Mexico before, but never to the Yucatan. I think I always looked at Latin America through my own personal Mexican lens, and now I am able to see it in varying degrees.”
Being involved in the Micro-Credit program was also an eye-opening experience for Espinosa. The Micro-Credit Program is a student-operated non-profit organization which assists micro-entrepreneurs living below the poverty threshold to start income generating businesses. The program seeks to promote freedom, fairness and democracy around the world by endorsing basic principles of micro-entrepreneurship, self-employment, property rights, and wealth accumulation, while integrating the Catholic values of the University of St. Thomas.
“I learned how a nonprofit functions. I picked my job because I really like seeing that our loans are making a difference. The media has a tendency to portray the world outside the United States as all fire and brimstone, but there are people out there working to make the world more just, and it is exciting to be exposed to that.”