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La Profesora and the Podcast

Biweekly Episodes Highlight Latinx/a/o Journeys and Achievements in Higher Ed

By Karen Shih ’09

Michelle Espino portrait

College of Education Associate Professor Michelle Espino hosts the biweekly podcast ”Latinx Intelligentsia,” which highlights the stories of Latinx/a/o students, faculty members, administrators and policymakers in higher education.

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

“La Profesora” is here to educate—not just in her classroom at the University of Maryland’s College of Education—but with her podcast, “Latinx Intelligentsia.”

As a proud Latina in academia, Associate Professor Michelle Espino has adopted the Spanish moniker as her host name on the show, whose fifth season launched this month. Every other week, she translates her research on Latinx/a/o pathways to and experiences in higher education for a wider audience, outside of academic journal articles.

“This is public scholarship. I’m finding ways to get information out to people about the issues we’re dealing with in higher education, with accessible language,” Espino said. These issues include the low numbers of Latinx/a/o students in college compared to in K-12 across the country, as well as lack of Latinx/a/o representation at the highest levels of university leadership.

“The fact that we only have 4% of university presidents that identify as Latinx/a/o—a number that has not changed since 2000—that’s a problem. Societal barriers are keeping Latinx/a/o students, faculty and administrators from accessing opportunity,” she said.

Each episode features an interview with a Latinx/a/o student, faculty member, administrator or policymaker and highlights their journey in higher education, and one of two segments: an “Academic Hype Team” segment that gives shoutouts or a reading from the “poet-in-residence and in resistencia” (which means “resistance”).

“We are talking about very difficult material—issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia. So why not end each episode on a note of hope and inspiration, with curated poetry or shoutouts based on the topic?” Espino said.

She had long looked for a new outlet to share the challenges of academic life as a Latina, and considered creating a blog. But as an avid podcast listener, she realized the medium could give her the freedom to have more casual conversations that didn’t fit into her research or classroom discussions. Today, with more than 1,500 followers on Twitter and a nearly perfect 4.9-star rating on Apple Podcasts, the show has developed a passionate following.

“It’s real and it’s raw,” said Juan Izaguirre, director of the Office of Leadership Education and Development at Florida Atlantic University. “You hear the laughter and the conversation—and sometimes you hear the emotion, where if they just breathe wrong, the tears will flow. They’ll say, ‘I’ve been in the profession for so many years, but this is the first time I’m telling my story.’

“I scream it to the masses: If you’re not listening to the podcast, you definitely need to listen—especially new grad students,” Izaguirre said. “Learn from the struggles, and reach out, ask for support from others who have gone before you.”

In the newest season, which started Sept. 7, topics will range from examining the education of formerly incarcerated and system-impacted students to overturning misinterpretations of critical race theory.

Since 2019, she has produced 38 episodes, all recorded and edited on her own. Though it’s time-consuming, Espino said the feedback she gets from listeners motivates her to continue, and that she frequently gets suggestions for people to interview.

Her goal is to ease the path of those who come after her, because she knows the struggles of being the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, a first-generation college student and pursuing a career in academia, often being the first or only Latina in classrooms or programs.

“I know I carry with me the hopes and dreams of so many,” she said. “It’s challenging, navigating institutions that are rooted in white supremacist culture. It’s amazing to now be a tenured professor at a research-extensive university. I believe you should always reach back and help the next generation—and that’s what I’m doing with the podcast.”

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