A ‘chance to critically reflect on a complicated nation’

Written by
Sarah Malone, Program in American Studies
Aug. 11, 2020

Hugo Myron, a 2020 alumnus, traces a line from American studies courses to an internship for the U.S. Department of Education.

Myron earned certificates in American and Latino studies. In 2019, the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs named him to its Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative (SNSI), and as the 2019 Tom A. and Andrea E. Bernstein ’80 Scholar, Myron worked in the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Via email this spring, he discussed how American studies and Latino studies complemented his concentration in politics and focus on American politics, and informed his pursuit of furthering equal access to education.

Below, edited for clarity and space, are reflections drawn from the conversation.

I think that AMS/LAO helped me develop a different eye or frame to evaluate the politics work I have done, especially in the context of evaluating marginalized communities in this country.

I have always been passionate about teaching and mentorship — one of the reasons I stayed involved with mentoring high school students through the Futuro program and the Princeton Association of Latinx Activism and Service (ALAS). I think my LAO classes motivated me even more and provided a fuller picture of my community, and to study Latinos in an academic context is important to understand the current situation.

My favorite AMS or LAO course is a tie between “Education Policy in the United States” (AMS 387) and “Latino History,” (LAO 306, now called “Becoming a Latino in the U.S.”). Not only did these classes feature two of my favorite professors of my Princeton career — shout out to [Associate Professor of History] Rosina Lozano and [Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs] Jennifer Jennings, now also my thesis advisor — they really ignited my passions and opened my eyes to analyzing topics I had never considered deeply.

Professor Jennings’s course on education fueled my passion for studying education policy — which I have now taken multiple courses on — [and] am writing my thesis on. Professor Jennings opened my eyes to the complicated education landscape in this nation, and to the extent of inequality. The course culminated in a paper that I co-wrote with a peer, evaluating public school funding disparities in New York City.

LAO 306 opened my eyes to the ways that Latino history has been ignored and erased from this nation’s history. [C]ontemporary American understanding frames Latinos as a new feature in society; [when] we have been here for centuries. [The course] culminated in developing a well-sourced and detailed Wikipedia article on a topic relating to Latinos in the U.S. As basic as this sounds, the lack of good, detailed Wikipedia articles on a variety of important Latino topics, histories, and people is staggering. I created a new page titled “Hispanic and Latino Americans in the United States Congress.” [A]ll previous wiki entries about Congressional Latinos were only lists or directories, often containing incorrect or outdated information.

My thesis is titled “Stubborn as an Ass? Shifting Democratic Party Framing of the Charter School Question.” Observers have suggested that Democrats have become less favorable and perhaps even antagonistic towards charter schools, despite decades of what was seen as bipartisan support. This project evaluates whether this [is] true by evaluating the charter school positions of the top five Democratic presidential candidates and public polling data. The project uses political framing theory and polarization theory to explain why Democrats might be changing, how they are framing the issue to the public, and the factors that could be affecting change.

I was seeking a cross-disciplinary path to studying what it means to be an American, to evaluate the good and the bad through the development of the nation, and to look ahead to a hopeful future. I think my progression through AMS has given me the chance to critically reflect on a complicated nation through a variety of methods and times and classes.

AMS 101 [“America Then and Now”] had us listen to the complete soundtrack [of the musical Hamilton] and follow along with the libretto. I remember that being so powerful, the ways that [Lin-Manuel] Miranda and the cast were “retelling” or “recapturing” history, and to see such a talented cast of mostly people of color was so inspiring to me. And I really do not enjoy musicals (full disclosure: I think they are annoying), so loving Hamilton was a surprise.

I want to mention this mural that used to be on the walls of the University of New Mexico, an extremely powerful image introduced to me in AMS 101.

I wanted to have an academic forum in which to think about my own place as a Latino in the United States. I looked forward to a more in-depth study of the history of Indigenous and Latino people in the United States, to evaluate the current state of Latinos in the U.S., and to look forward to what the future will hold for a people gaining influence. I very much enjoyed my time in the program, and to be able to explore perspectives of Latinos in many contexts made me even prouder to be a Latino.

After Princeton, I want to go to law school, preferably back home in California to be closer to my family. I decided to take time off before law school. It is likely that I will be doing some legal work in the meantime, as a clerk, though I am still considering some government/politics-related opportunities. I also hope to spend time traveling and doing volunteer work.