Episode Two: Amanda Gallegos and Janelle Astorga-Ramos
The second episode of SWOP’s 40th Anniversary Podcast features a conversation between the fierce and hardworking Amanda Gallegos and Janelle Astorga-Ramos. They talk about haunted hotels, out of town conference shenanigans and how proud they are to be a part of the SWOP family.
About the hosts:
A University Without Walls
University Sin Fronteras (UNSIF) could not have arisen without the collaboration between two organizations that had already been holding their own classes and workshops on organizing and internal political education since the 1980s: the Southwest Workers Union (SWU) in San Antonio, TX and Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide (PS) in Atlanta, GA. Both long-standing social movement organizations contributed the infrastructural support critical to the creation of the UNSIF. They, therefore, became its first two anchor organizations. Ruben Solis, after transitioning out of his position at SWU, took on the responsibility of establishing UNSIF.
In 2010, a group of activists met in a series of Tertulias (round-table talks) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We became concerned about the lack of qualitative connection between a new explosion of community activists and more experienced organizers, and among one another. Bridging the distinct histories and perspectives of three generations of movement activists would be difficult without a university developed by and for our social movements. Sending busy activists to schools that are outdated, racist, classist, and lacking in diversity would be wrong. We needed a new way to educate.
In 2011, we decided to try to meet that need by founding the University Sin Fronteras. A Board of Directors, made up of seven people from Puerto Rico and eight from the continental United States, developed vision and mission statements. As we began to create campuses in different locations, we decided each board member should represent an existing or potential campus. In 2012 the nine members of a new board established the basic concepts for our curriculum, pedagogy, and semester system. Our first classes, held in Atlanta, served as an experiment in applying those concepts. Some students from the first course helped plan the second one. Some practices, particularly the Round Robin process to encourage each person to participate in discussions (see more under Pedagogy), quickly became institutionalized. By 2013, however, we realized that we were trying to expand too quickly, without giving each potential campus secure roots. The third board, therefore, focused on strengthening our understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the existing six campuses in Atlanta (the Flagship Campus), Detroit, San Antonio, San Juan, Jacksonville, and Bemidji.
Further information can be found on their website here.