"Meet a Roadrunner" features Professor Ben Olguín

Meet the newest subject of "Meet a Roadrunner": Dr. Ben Olguín of UTSA's English department!

Story by Connor McBrearty, posted February 11, 2015

A UTSA faculty member since 1997, Olguin is an associate professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing Program. He also is the Honors College Assistant Director for National Scholarships. His research focuses on Latino/a literature, cultural studies, art and history. In addition to his scholarly activities, Olguin also is a poet and a progressive social activist.

2014 has been a pivotal year for Olguin, starting with the publication of the anthology, Latina/os and WWII: Mobility, Agency, and Ideology, which he co-edited with University of Texas at Austin Professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez. The book explores the history, sociology, literature and art by U.S.-born Latina/os during World War II. Also, two collections of poetry, Red Leather Gloves and At the Risk of Seeming Ridiculous: Poems from Cuba Libre, were both published this year. The first consists of poems drawn from his memories as an amateur boxer when he was a young man (Olguin was undefeated in his career, he notes, counting two knockouts in a 14-0 record). The collection serves as his own “attempt at a feminist analysis of masculinist and patriarchal socialization practices.” The second book is a politically-charged testament to the people of Cuba, and chronicles his travels to the country as a member of the activist group the Venceremos Brigade.

“All three of these projects share the unifying theme of people trying to have an impact on this country and Latin America, sometimes against seemingly insurmountable odds,” Olguin explains.

Olguin has established himself as a productive researcher, but at UTSA he’s also regarded as an esteemed lecturer. What he hopes his students will take from his class is the courage and desire to question everything. He wants them to never be complacent but rather recognize that true knowledge is uncovered in the debate itself.

Olguin earned his B.A. at the University of Houston, where his grandfather worked as a janitor, and his M.A. and Ph.D. at Stanford University. He previously taught as an assistant professor in the English Department at Cornell University, and as a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin. His pursuit for intellectual growth and provocative socially-committed scholarship has led him down several interesting and surprising paths. He has worked as a construction worker, prison educator, volunteer Emergency Medical Technician, unionized grocery worker, waiter and cook. “I needed to know what I was writing about,” he explains, “so if I was going to write about the working class from which I come, I need to continue working alongside them.”

These life experiences also served his objective to be an organic intellectual--one whose values and intelligence are derived both from the working class and the academic. He doesn’t have it figured out, Olguin is quick to say; only that he’s on a perpetual journey of discovery as a scholar and human being.

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