Jennifer Correa (Faculty)
By University Communications
Monday, 03 12 2018
Assistant Professor of sociology, Jennifer Correa, Ph.D. knew early on that she wanted to build a life outside her hometown of Dilley, Texas. The first step in achieving her goals, was leaving the home she loved, to seek educational opportunities. After high school, Dr. Correa packed her bags and left for Beeville, Texas and earned an Associate of Science degree in criminal justice, followed by the completion a Bachelor of Science degree in criminology from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. It was there that she was introduced to the complexities of sociology and found a passion for the subject.
While at A&M-Kingsville, a professor noticed Dr. Correa’s untapped potential and recommended she apply for the Ronald E. McNair scholars program. After adhering to the strict criteria and passing multiple interviews, she became what she didn’t think was possible—a scholar. With her sights set high and with the guidance of her mentor, she contemplated pursuing a master’s degree.
Dr. Correa approached her parents with the idea and was met with understandable hesitation. As a first-generation college student whose parents never completed middle school, Dr. Correa had to explain the significance of furthering her education. And ultimately, her parents supported her decision.
“For my parents, graduate school wasn’t something in their imagination, per se,” Dr. Correa says. “It wasn’t their fault that they thought this way. It just wasn’t part of their lives.”
Dr. Correa’s mother immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. when she was approximately twelve years old. In the midst of her journey, she never completed middle school. Dr. Correa’s father is a fourth-generation Texan, but never went to back to school after completing the third grade. Both parents sacrificed their education to work and support their families.
“When I was younger I never really understood the severity of my parent’s situation in life. I later came to appreciate my parents, what they went through, and how much they sacrificed for me and my siblings,” she said.
With little familial guidance, Dr. Correa applied to graduate school and eventually earned her Master of Science degree in sociology. But why stop there? With unwavering dedication, she completed her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her dissertation entitled "Unheard Voices at the Texas-Mexico Border Wall: Fragmentation, Citizenship, and Opposition in a War on Terror" examined the socio-political impacts of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 on Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley residents.
After taking a position as a faculty member in the Midwest, Dr. Correa’s mother was hospitalized in San Antonio for congestive heart failure. When news reached Dr. Correa, she swiftly booked a flight and jetted to Texas. While visiting her mother in the hospital, she took a leap of faith after hearing from the doctor that her mother would pull through and interviewed with Texas A&M University-San Antonio (A&M-SA). And a week later, Dr. Correa received a call offering her the position in Sociology program in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Correa admits, “I really love being at the school. I came here because it reminded me a lot of my time at A&M-Kingsville. The diversity here is amazing. So, in many ways it felt like I was coming back home.”
Entering her second year here at A&M-SA, Dr. Correa enjoys challenging her students with grasping the difficult yet intriguing concepts and theories within sociology. She also teaches courses in LatinX studies and U.S.-Mexico borderland studies—subjects that get at the heart of her research.
A piece of advice Dr. Correa gives all of her students is to always cultivate curiosity and wonder. She believes it is important to have “little dreams” that will ultimately become our “big dreams.”
An exemplar story of perseverance, Dr. Correa is a shining example of dreams pursued resulting in realities fulfilled.