Dr. Sandra L. Soto earned her B.A. in English Literature in 2007, and the M.A. in English Education in 2009, from our very own campus. She later went on to pursue her PhD in Anthropology and Education in 2014, from the University of Arizona in Tuscon. Passionate about education from an early age, she originally wanted to be a Spanish teacher, later a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher, but eventually became an assistant professor at her alma mater.
Her own experiences with transnationalism-– graduating from primary school in Puerto Rico; living and attending high school in Pennsylvania– shaped her current line of research in Transnational Puerto Rican Youth, a field which studies issues of language, emotional aspects, and attachments to certain geographical areas.
Looking at language from a socio-cultural perspective, professor Soto, focuses on the external factors that impact and influence student experiences, learning, teacher experiences and strategies, while also looking at language from the perspective of linguistic anthropology. Some of the external factors are: cultural clashes, changes in language use, migration, cultural perspective, support networks, and school offerings and life.
While pursuing graduate studies, professor Soto, got her first taste of research while working on a USDA project headed by Dr. Catherine Mazak, and Dr. Rosita Rivera; both of whom founded CeIBA, an institute that focuses on language and learning. CeIBA’s goals are to tackle communication issues among the university community, and Puerto Rico, to bridge the gap between English and Spanish speakers. The experience earned while working on this project motivated her to continue on to earn a PhD and conduct her own research.
Dr. Soto serves as the Graduate Coordinator for the M.A.E.E where she makes sure that all the Teaching Assistants that teach basic and intermediate English courses have the support, resources, and training they need. Apart from coordinating the teaching assistants, the professor is a member of CeiBA, a graduate committee member, and teaches English 3101 , English 6006, and English 6996.
Some advice Dr. Soto offers to undergraduate English majors: get involved in as many things as possible (she was a member of EDSA and TeatRum), go to conferences, and pursue personal interests. In her words, “follow what you want to do, be creative with it, don’t be miserable, no one wants to be miserable.”