Since 1989, the Hispanic Summer Program (HSP) has provided a communal intensive learning environment for seminary students who identify as Hispanic or Latinx. Students receive three educational credits for their time in the program each year, with a variety of classes to choose from. This year’s program will be entirely online to continue following health and safety guidelines.
This year, the classes span from the effect of forces like climate change, colonialism, and COVID-19 on sacred practices and Pachamama (led by Union associate professor of worship Dr. Cláudio Carvalhaes); Latina and Mujerista biblical hermeneutics and theologies; and other classes with focuses on ecological justice, history of the borderlands of the U.S. and Mexico, and the context of liberation theology today.
“Within this community, we don’t need to translate our cultures or histories,” said Dr. Daisy Machado, the executive director of HSP and a professor of Church History here at Union.
According to part of the HSP‘s mission statement, most students in its yearly program are “regularly enrolled students in ATS-accredited institutions (in M.Div., D.Min., and other programs), although there are always a number of participants pursuing continuing education or Ph.D. students who desire an opportunity to work with a particular professor, or they may be teachers in Bible colleges and Bible Institutes.”
“Without hyperbole, there is no program in the nation like the Hispanic Summer Program,” said Union PhD student Jorge Rodriguez, who also serves as the Associate Director for Strategic Programming at HSP. “Students are exposed to a majority Latinx environment which centers the cultural traditions of Latinx peoples as well as the intellectual traditions that have been birthed by our community.”
In addition to providing “theological education from the Latinx perspective and context, and an opportunity for Latinx and non-Latinx students to collaborate in an ecumenical setting where diversity is celebrated,” according to Elizabeth Niang, the program administrator for HSP, the organization also supports educators and faculty members with its Through Hispanic Eyes (T.H.E.) initiative.
“Faculty and administrators who attend Through Hispanic Eyes benefit from engaging with the facilitator and with one another in exploring how their institutions can become more welcoming to Latinx students, and by discussing opportunities and obstacles that their own institutions face with regards to the issue of diversity,” said Niang.
As HSP puts it, “the main goal of the T.H.E. workshop is to focus on the issue of theological education from a Latinx perspective while holding in tension some other important related issues—the hire and retention of Latina/o faculty, curriculum needs of Latinx students, race, gender, immigration, student retention, and the reality of the U.S. Latinx church.”
“Many of the students in the main summer program go on to pursue doctorate degrees,” said Dr. Machado, “because often before our program, their exposure to Hispanic professors and people who hold PhDs is limited. In this way, the HSP becomes a pipeline for new Latinx professors within our fields.”
That pipeline occasionally extends to the faculty of HSP itself; it provides the opportunity for some faculty to teach a class for the very first time.
“This community provides a space for Latinx students to never have to explain themselves when discussing their culture,” said Dr. Machado, “as well as a place to embrace those who don’t share their background either. This program becomes more than just a classroom for our students.”
Students interested in applying for this year’s HSP have until February 15, 2021 to do so.