Sierra Salas, a junior Political Science major at St. Mary’s University, knows whatSierra Salas, a senior Political Science major at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, knows what she wants in a career: to serve the people of San Antonio. That motivation helped inspire her to pursue the University’s new undergraduate certificate in Mexican American Studies along with a Master of Arts in Public Administration.

To serve the public, Salas said it’s important to know your public. As a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) in a city with a majority of its population identifying as Hispanic, St. Mary’s recently added an Undergraduate Certificate and a Minor in Mexican American Studies.  

The 15-hour Undergraduate Certificate and the 18-hour Minor in Mexican American Studies launched in Fall 2021 and offer the opportunity to learn more about Mexican American history, culture and politics.  

“The classes have inspired me and given me more passion to serve my community in San Antonio,” said Salas of the certificate program courses. “They’ve played such an important part in making me realize just how big of a role Mexican Americans played in forming this country.” 

In San Antonio, 64.2% of residents identify solely as Hispanic, according to numbers from the 2020 U.S. Census. In Texas, 39% of residents identify as Hispanic and about 60 million people in the United States identify as Hispanic.  

Professor of Political Science Arturo Vega (B.A. ’81, M.A. ’83), Ph.D., said the purpose of both the Minor and the Certificate is to help not just Mexican American students understand their heritage, but also to help students of other backgrounds gain insight into Mexican American culture. 

“If you want to work in San Antonio, if you want to work in this community, if you want to work in Texas, you need to know something about this population,” Vega said. 

As a Mexican American, Salas said the majority of what she has learned during the courses is new to her, such as the history of Dolores Huerta and her work alongside Cesar Chavez in civil rights and farmworkers’ rights.  

 “I never learned any of this in high school. I never learned any of my history or culture prior to taking these classes,” Salas said. “I’m glad I have these classes to open up my eyes.” 

For more information, visit stmarytx.edu.