Neusa Hidalgo-Monroy McWilliams
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley. 1996 - Geography
M.A. University of California, Berkeley. 1991 - Geography
B.A. National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH). Mexico City. 1987 - Archaeology
My research has always focused on Economic Development – Sustainability, especially in the rural areas of Latin America. I am particularly interested on the networks that isolated communities create within their societies to survive despite years of government policies aimed to integrate the region into the national economy. Most recently my focus has been in remittances, especially the policies that governments of Mexico and El Salvador have implemented to attract money from remittances and funnel it towards community development project (3x1 program in Mexico). My goal is to follow up on these projects and on the economic, social and cultural impacts that they are having in these rural communities. In particular I am especially interested in the role that women are having in the implementation and coordination of some of these projects.
Another research interest is in neighborhood asset mapping in community revitalization and planning projects. By mapping asset information provided directly from local residents, or community building approach, residents feel empower in defining the desired outcomes of the community and in creating and implementing solutions. These maps should then be incorporated into any government funded redevelopment project.
More recently I have been doing research among immigrant women populations and the way their past involvement in NGOs in their home country have encourage them to participate in similar organizations in the USA, and how this participation influences their original membership in their countries of origin. By interviewing a few members of cooperatives in the State of California and the city of New York I have found a correlation between their previous involvements in cooperatives in Latin America (textile, ceramic, coffee) and their involvement in similar organizations in the USA. My current research interest is focused on the opportunities that local cooperatives offer to immigrant women as sources of social and economic empowerment. In addition, as these women become empowered they become active agents of social change, and provide funding to bring economic changes to their native countries.
My doctoral dissertation combined a social network approach to indigenous communities grower based certified organic coffee organizations and the world markets. The study analyzed the social and environmental impacts as well as future tendencies of organic agriculture and sustainable rural development in Latin America.
During my professional career I have always been compelled to activities that I believe have the potential to influence in a positive manner the lives of everyone involved. Teaching has therefore been a powerful way to fulfill this passion. As a college professor I can have a direct impact in the lives of current and future generations. As a Geography professor I can help students become more aware and sensitive to the cultural differences in our world, as well as more understanding and supportive of this diversity. I am convinced that the threefold aspects of geography: human, physical and technical provide students with a unique multidisciplinary and integrative foundation to move into the complex and diverse society of the 21st century.
My goal is to make the geographic knowledge both useful and relevant regardless of the students chosen major, professional interest or future activity. In order to do this I start each lecture with a few higher-level discussion/debate questions, based on current relevant events from the news, which need to be answered in small groups and then discussed by the class as a whole. Students get points for class participation when answering them. This helps students gain a deeper understanding on the chapter’s content.
I am a strong believer that the most important skills in learning are Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. Students also have different learning styles; therefore I have found that an active learning environment that includes a variety of opportunities for students to learn and use their own background and interest is the best approach to teaching.
An active learning environment starts by encouraging students to ask questions at anytime, and even by rewarding relevant insights into the current class topic. Students are encouraged to bring articles with questions to the attention of the class for discussion with their peers for extra points. This allows critical examinations of the content contained in the articles on concepts learned in the textbook and lecture.
In addition, my lectures are always supported by a series of required online assignments that may include videos with questions, Google Earth activities, Mapping activities, short readings with questions, and chapter quizzes. Whenever appropriate field trips are used to complement coursework and to gain experience with data collection and research methodology.