The University of Georgia
Cardoza-Oquendo, Juan Carlos

UGA's Amazing Students

Juan Carlos Cardoza-Oquendo

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December 11, 2011

Juan Carlos Cardoza-Oquendo may call Decatur, Ga., home, but it’s obvious he takes pride in his Hispanic heritage. Following graduation in spring 2012 and after receiving bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and human geography, he plans to work for the rights of workers and immigrants.

Expected graduation:

Spring 2012

Degree objective:

A.B. Geography, A.B. Anthropology

University highlights, achievements and awards:

As a Bulldog and a Foundation Fellow, I’ve learned one-on-one from outstanding faculty, attended many lectures and taken a wide range of truly inspiring courses. I love the atmosphere when classrooms are packed with students and faculty to listen to engaging lecturers. But I’ve also thought a lot about those who aren’t in those classrooms, those who clean the toilets I use in the MLC and served my food every day at Snelling Dining Hall when I was a freshman.

Dr. King once said that “philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” Informed by this concept—questioning why people are poor, rather than reproducing their poverty with charity—I got involved with the university’s Living Wage Campaign, which has been going on for more than five years.

Summer of my sophomore year, I interned with the Instituto Elos in Santos, Brazil, observing how people in marginalized communities mobilized for social change. Back in Athens, through groups like the Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition and Georgia Students for Public Higher Education, I’ve sought to educate people on who has and doesn’t have access to the university and why, committed to UGA fulfilling its goal of leading the state in education and and making the state, the nation, and the world a fairer place where all can pursue their dreams.

There’s no reason UGA should be closed to anyone; that’s what I’ve sought to fight for in these past few years. I only hope that my efforts will contribute to making the university an even better place where all are respected and can benefit from the mind-expanding enrichment that it has provided me.

Hometown:

Decatur, GA

High School:

Decatur High School

Current Employment:

Undergraduate teaching assistant in the department of anthropology

Family Ties to UGA:

Both my parents are proud graduates of that other flagship institution, the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras.

I chose to attend UGA because...

...as opposed to the private schools I applied to in the Northeast, which are somewhat elitist, UGA has a real-ness to it as a public institution that I really like. The Foundation Fellowship has also provided unrivaled travel opportunities.

My favorite things to do on campus are...

...bike through the crazy noon traffic on Sanford Drive, bike down the Lumpkin Street hill and be anywhere on North Campus at sunset, especially in the fall.

When I have free time, I like...

...to sing Mexican rancheras and corridos and Latin American protest songs with my friends up in Pinewoods, watch Youtube videos of folk dances from all across the world, bake, go for some cow tongue and head tacos in North Athens and discuss politics and how we’re going to transform this society—that workers aren’t respected and immigrants are being criminalized and comprehensive, holistic education is increasingly out of reach for many.

The craziest thing I've done is...

...drive 11 hours up to Columbus, Ohio—half of them in the blowing snow—to attend the United Students Against Sweatshops. It was well worth it, as I learned from labor organizers from across the Americas and student organizers from across the U.S. who are working to make our campuses more just and inclusive.

My favorite place to study is...

...the Jittery Joe’s on Broad Street. I love the constant bustle and watching the car and pedestrian traffic go by.

My favorite professor is...

...Pamela Voekel in the History Department. Her sheer enthusiasm and sense of humor in the classroom is contagious, and she really practices what she teaches—social and economic justice and respect for the dignity of all labor.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...

...Luisa Capetillo, a fierce anarchist and feminist who fought for workers’ rights in Puerto Rico and New York City at the turn of the 20th century. One of her famous quotes is “Ni dios, ni patrón, ni marido,” meaning “Neither god, nor boss, nor husband.” She was also the first woman arrested for wearing pants in public.

If I knew I could not fail, I would...

...make higher education free. It’s too good not to! Lectures, arts performances, classes, meetings with professors—everyone should be able to enjoy these!

After graduation, I plan to...

...teach English in India if I obtain the Fulbright scholarship, or work for an organization addressing immigrant or workers’ rights in the United States or Latin America.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...

the Graduation of Resistance, organized by the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance, on August 24. Undocumented students marched across Broad Street to receive diplomas of resistance to the Board of Regents’ ban of them from the state’s top five institutions and House Bill 87, which endangers the civil rights of immigrants. I was so moved to be rallying for justice in the same place that Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton E. Holmes entered campus to register for classes 50 years ago. It was democracy in action! Regardless of one’s political ideology, we all benefit when freedom of expression is respected.