Driven by a traumatic experience immediately following high school graduation, Carlos Casanova is determined to become a professor in an Institution of Higher Education, along with staying actively engaged with youth in the Latino community.
Carlos prepares to make a difference after Iowa State
At 19 years old, Carlos Casanova’s best friend was murdered. It was that moment in Carlos’s life that put him on the path toward education.
“That murder, that was my first year out of high school, and I wasn’t enrolled in college,” he said. “That event made me realize how submerged I was in oppression and oppressed circumstance – and it made me, over years of conversations and support, realize that I needed to do something. So, I started at the community college. The intent of taking that route and path was to make sure that my friend, his story, has an impact on other individual youth. So I tell the youth about my story, so they know where I’m coming from. This is why I’m doing this, and that I don’t want to see them at 19 years old carrying their best friend’s casket to a graveyard.”
Carlos graduated college with a sociology degree and went on to obtain his master’s in sociology. This is when he started studying social justice along with social and cultural studies at the University of Texas – San Antonio. Here he spoke with ISU alumnae, Laura Rendon.
“We met through a mutual friend, and she started telling me about how great of a School of Education Iowa State had and how it was really focused on social justice and coming from my background and my work. She said it would be a good fit, and she thought I should apply. So I did.”
Carlos currently works with Professor Julio Cammarota, his adviser and major professor. Their research focuses on identifying how Latino youth engage in action, specifically transformational action, to improve society, institutions of higher education, and public education systems. The majority of their research concentrates on Latino youth and community organizations in Des Moines.
The hands-on work formed Carlos’ long-term and short-term goals during and after the doctoral program.
“Right now, I’m working with high school youth and, if we assume I’m here for three years, my goal is that every senior in that graduating class that I’ve worked with – I want them to enroll in college,” he said. “I want them to graduate high school and go straight on to college, as long as they’re in some sort of institution of higher education. That’s my goal.”
After graduation, his goals are similar.
“I want to be a professor within the institution of higher education, but at the same time, my desire and passion is within the Latino community,” he said, “So, I want to find that balance where I’m a professor and I’m still engaged and working with youth in the Latino community. I want to live a comfortable lifestyle, enjoy the type of work I’m doing, and at the same time, don’t forget where I come from.”