Serving the daughters and sons of immigrant parents.

May 25th, 2018 | Category: Columns
By Simeon Stumme

Concordia has a history of serving the children of immigrants. The founding purpose of the Concordia System was to educate teachers and ministers for positions in LCMS institutions serving German-speaking immigrants. Consistent with the cultural expectations of the time, much of the course work at the Concordias at that time was conducted in German.

CUC continues to serve the daughters and sons of immigrants. Latinx students, most of them born in the United States to immigrant parents from Mexico, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and El Salvador are a marked presence on Concordia University Chicago’s campus. The recent university designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution recognizes affirmative efforts by the university to create a welcoming educational experience.

This semester, another step was taken to create a responsive, inclusive and supportive environment for Latinx students. For the first time in university history, an academic class, not part of the foreign language program, is being offered bilingually, in both English and Spanish. One SBS Noetics section, a required first-year experience class, was developed to include academic opportunities for students to engage with readings, to write and to discuss content in Spanish and English.

It has been my experience that having a class that has this linguistic fluidity does several things. First, it serves as a language development space; it is an opportunity to practice, develop and improve their Spanish in a meaningful setting. Second, the class positions Spanish as a legitimate academic language. Spanish is transformed from something to be used exclusively with friends and family to a tool of critical reflection and creation of knowledge. Third, the class expands the university’s understanding of what counts as linguistically appropriate and valuable in a classroom. Finally, the class offers Latinx students a space where their linguistic and cultural legacy, the language of their immigrant parents, is valued and rewarded.

Current Latinx students might have different academic goals, countries of origin, home-language, and religious affiliations than the original German students that attended Concordia Teacher’s College and before that, the Addison Lutheran Teachers Seminary. But much like their predecessors, the current children of immigrants come to CUC to learn about the world they live in and how they can contribute to making it more equitable, democratic and open. Allowing them to do so using their home language signals to students, in a small way, that who they are and what they bring with them is part of what Concordia is; it makes CUC a more complete learning home for all students. LEJ