The McKeen Center recently invited Sarah Lipinoga Gallo ’03 to speak at Bowdoin about her research on the impacts of U.S. immigration policies on Mexican-immigrant fathers and, consequently, on their children.
Prior to her well-attended talk — which she divided into two parts, one in Spanish, the other in English — Gallo participated in an informal gathering with students at the McKeen Center to chat about her career.
There, Gallo described the events in her life — including international travel and personal interests — that have helped her arrive at her current position. She’s a PhD candidate in educational linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania.
For the past seven years, Gallo has focused her doctoral research on Mexican families who have young children in the U.S. public school system. Specifically, she is looking at the violence that has become normalized and legally justified under our current immigration regimes, and how this violence permeates the everyday lives of immigrant families.
U.S. immigration policies in particular target immigrant men, Gallo said. And though there is a pervasive stereotype that Latin American fathers are uninvolved and uninterested in the welfare and education of their children, many in reality are deeply invested, Gallo said. When fathers are targeted by immigration enforcement that treats undocumented immigrants as criminals, their children’s lives are uprooted.
As an example of this, Gallo said she has observed that “it was common for students in Marshall [Pennsylvania] to miss school because of rumored ICE raids.” Another student became distracted and detached in class after losing her father to deportation, Gallo said, and she was too ashamed and fearful to tell her teachers what was happening at home.
Gallo told the Bowdoin students that she came to her present scholarly path because she wanted to speak Spanish and wanted to be involved in issues facing Latin Americans. A decade ago, Gallo was a unique student at Bowdoin. “Back when I was at Bowdoin, there were few people who spoke Spanish fluently,” she said, marveling at how much that has changed.
Gallo became fluent in Spanish before arriving at Bowdoin, and continued to gain proficiency in the language as a college student. In her gap year between high school and college, she was an exchange student in Costa Rica. During her junior year at Bowdoin, she enrolled in a university in Quito, Ecuador. In her senior year, she wrote her honor’s project on an indigenous group living in Ecuador’s Amazon region.
After graduating, Gallo worked at the Citizens School in Boston, which offers additional educational programming for children in low-income communities. While there, she completed her master’s degree.
When asked whether she takes an activist role in her work with immigrant families, Gallo said she’s not the type of person to do a lot of “shouting” for social change. Rather, she answered, “I take a stand as a researcher and put myself in other people’s shoes. … I illustrate other people’s lives and how things impact them. That’s the approach I take.”