July 1, 2022

Political science professor shares experience teaching, living in Latin America

Before Dr. Kevin Lucas, political science assistant professor, began his career at the university, he lived in Latin America for several years.

Dr. Lucas’ interest began when he was a young boy.

“I remember my grandfather collected stamps, and as a little kid I started collecting coins, and I think that was kind of impetus for just being interested in learning more about different countries and different parts of the world.”

Lucas with a student named Orbe; a student in his high school English classes.

He took Spanish throughout high school and college, which led to a B.A. in International Studies from Emory University. However, he had only been out of the country a few times; feeling like a fraud in his degree with so few world encounters, Lucas searched for study abroad programs that would earn him experience as well as graduate level credits.

The Minnesota Studies in International Development Program presented itself to him, and through it Lucas soon found himself in Quito, Ecuador. The first two-and-a-half months of his time in Ecuador saw him taking a range of social science classes taught in Spanish.

From there, he was sent out to complete a five-and-a-half month long internship in a little village about three hours north of Quito.

“My internship assignment was working as an ESL teacher in the grade school. I was teaching English to kids in first through sixth grade, which was something, because with the first graders some of them hadn’t even learned to read and write Spanish yet,” he said.

“For them, the challenge was that everything had to be oral. It was a lot of walking around the room pointing at things, ‘blue,’ ‘yellow,’ ‘table,’ ‘wall,’ just really simple vocabulary because nothing written was going to work.”

After his time in Ecuador, Lucas finished his master’s program, earning an M.A. in International Studies from the University of Denver. He decided that he wanted to have another, longer experience abroad, which prompted his application to become a Peace Corps volunteer.

In mid-January of 2001, Lucas received his letter of acceptance to join the group of volunteers going to El Salvador. He arrived in June of the same year, and worked as a Municipal Developer for the required 27 months before extending his service an additional 13 months.

Exactly two days after his 40 months of service had ended, Lucas married Maria Luisa Ramirez, whom he met in his Peace Corps site, and lived with her for another year-and-a-half before they moved back to the U.S. in 2006.

“So all told, I ended up being in El Salvador for four years, nine months and 22 days. I was ready for what comes next in life, but it was such a great experience for me, and I’m really glad I did it.”

What came next for Lucas was a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2015. He began working at Capital as a political science assistant professor in the fall of 2017.

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