Chances are, you probably have never thought that making a quilt could help you earn your PhD. Neither did Sonia Arellano. However, as she completes her dissertation for a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Arizona, she also will be assembling a quilt for the Migrant Quilt Project, a non-profit organization that gathers clothing left behind by migrants in the Tucson sector of the desert and uses them to create a quilt memorializing each person who died crossing the desert that year.
Sonia started her PhD program with an interest in the history of Mexican-Americans, which has only grown during her time in Tucson; the experience that comes from working to change anti-immigration legislation, teaching English to immigrants and refugees as a volunteer, and working at an immigrant intake center have caused her interests to develop into an analysis of the discourses about immigration. Her dissertation invokes the “larger immigrant conversation, looking at how we deem lives grievable or not grievable and therefore worth memorializing or not worth memorializing.”
Sonia earned her bachelors in Mass Communication and English from Texas State University in 2006. While at Texas State, Sonia took a Chicano literature class “that really changed a lot of (her) choices.” She also studied abroad in Spain while completing her bachelors; after graduation, she moved there for a year and a half. While abroad, Sonia decided that she wanted to pursue a Masters in Literature and returned to Texas State University. During this time, Sonia was asked to chair a panel discussion at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, an experience that allowed her to meet “a bunch of people interested in the same things as (she) was,” giving her encouragement to pursue her interests. She says it was at that point that she was convinced to apply to PhD programs in Rhetoric and Composition. Her current doctoral program is focused around cultural critique, meaning that her studies focus on the ways language is persuasive, as well as how things such as body movements or artifacts portray a particular message in literature.
In February, Sonia was featured on the Conference for College Composition and Communication Latin@ Caucus Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nctecccclatinocaucus.
By Leeann Cardwell, International Studies major