Cajitas project helps students learn culture through self-examination

Art pieces called "cajitas" were displayed February in the halls of the Mean Green Village Building B by graduate students in the Higher Education program. These works of art were not composed of brush strokes and paints, but they showed the intimacy of individuals and personal cultures captured with boxes and personal items such as photos, awards and pieces of each student's history.

The project centered on self-examination and understanding culture in relation to the students' own lives. Higher Education faculty Amy Fann and Uyen Tran-Parsons assigned the project in their classes on Cultural Pluralism in Higher Education. Their idea was based on the work of Alberto Pulido, professor and department chair of ethnic studies in the college of arts and sciences at the University of San Diego.

Students were asked to create a "cajita" or "sacred box" (literally "small box") to represent aspects of their identity and cultural heritage. The cajita wasn't restricted to being a box, but may have taken any shape the creator felt was appropriate. The project, related discussions and coursework were planned with the idea that each student would bring their own lives and experiences with them as their painter's palette. With the lectures, readings and their own knowledge as their canvas, each student was given the chance to deepen their understanding of culture.

"I loved working on this project," said Brendaliz Castro, one of the students in Fann's class. "It is the first time I participated in an assignment like this, and I think it was a great opportunity for us to think about who we are and what has shaped our lives. It was also very interesting to learn about others through their cajitas."

The College of Education's program in Higher Education promotes human development through education, research and service that advance the profession of, and scholarship in, higher education. Learn more about our Higher Education degrees.

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By Jessie Laljer, UNT's College of Education Development and External Relations Office
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