3 C's Spotlight: Dr. Laura Puaca

On March 27, Her Campus at CNU hosted an event called 3C’s, which stands for Coffee, Careers, & Conversation. This event provided young collegiettes with the chance to engage in career-oriented conversation with some of our CNU professors. I sat down with Dr. Laura Puaca, one of the professors who attended this special event, to ask her some questions regarding her path to success.

What inspired you to study and teach both history and women’s studies?

"I originally had no idea what I wanted to study. I went to college thinking I was going to be a Political Science and Spanish major, so I could go on and be an international human rights attorney. When I got to college I was a Spanish major for about two and a half years, but as I started taking the political science courses I realized that my college had a joint major that was half political science and half history. I thought that sounded interesting because I’ve always like history, too, and it was an opportunity to combine both in one major. I did end up completing that major, but because I went to a women’s college a lot of our general education courses all had some sort of women and gender component, so it turned out that I was a good way along to completing the major requirements for women’s studies. I eventually graduated from college with a degree in [both] history/political science and women’s studies, and I was able to put those extra Spanish credits into an international studies certificate with an emphasis on women and global leadership. So, when it came time, I thought I was going to be an attorney, and I hadn’t really thought much about graduate school. There’s actually a funny story; during my sophomore year, I was taking one of my first women’s history classes and we had these take-home midterms. When the teacher handed them back I sat there reading her comments, and I was in shock because I thought she wrote, 'You are going to graduate, right? If not, call me,' and I flipped out. Then I kept reading it and I realized that she said, 'You are going to graduate school, right?' and that was my first inkling that I should consider going to graduate school. In that same professor’s class, one of our assignments was to interview a female family member, so I interviewed my grandmother, who had served in the navy during World War II, and I became really interested in her experiences and curious about how the compared to experiences of other women of her generation. So, I did my college honors thesis on women who attended my college during World War II and that sort of became the basis of my master’s thesis, which became my dissertation. When I decided to go to graduate school I put together my interests and did my PhD in History but much of my graduate work was centered on U.S. Women’s History. I was also able to do a graduate minor in women’s studies."

What do you enjoy most about your profession?

"I love getting to interact with students and share with them the things that interest me. I get to teach a wide range of really cool classes. I teach U.S. Women’s History, Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies, History of Women’s Social Movements in the U.S., History of Gender and Sexuality, and I also teach an African-American Civil Rights class. So, I really love being able to teach students about social movements and introduce them to people and things that interest me and share my excitement with them."

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

 

How do you maintain balance between your professional and family life?

"I won’t say it is easy by any stretch of the imagination; it’s something that I try my best to compartmentalize as much as possible. When I’m at work I try to work with as few distractions as possible to not let my time get sucked up but rather focus on whatever it is I need to complete for my job by the time that I leave to get my kids. And then when I’m with them, I try to play with them and try as much as possible to not let them see me at my computer. When I’m with my kids I really try to focus on being with them, and when they go to bed I try to spend time with my husband. Although, he’s also a professor, which means that sometimes we can hang out but other times we have to sit down and do more work at night. I’ve become more efficient since having kids because the time suddenly became so constricted that I realized there wasn’t time to waste doing things that weren’t priorities."

Why are feminism and female empowerment so essential to have in today’s society?

"I often think about my daughter and my son and the roles that they will inhabit. There are obviously lots of challenges and attacks on women’s rights that need to be remedied and corrected and challenged to make the world a more equitable place, and feminism and female empowerment play a key role in that. With my kids, I always buy them gender neutral toys and try and not make them feel constricted by gender roles and expectations and allow them to see possibilities beyond what they’re largely taught and encouraged to see."

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

 

What advice would you give to young women entering the workforce?

"To not be afraid to negotiate, whether it’s your salary, leave policy, benefits, etc. Also, do what’s interesting to you, and try to pick a career that you’re really passionate about and you’re not just doing it to do it or because someone expects you to."

Did you enjoy Her Campus and CNU’s 3 C’s event? Were there any particular conversations that resonated with you?

"I definitely enjoyed it; I really enjoyed talking with the students and hearing their perspectives. It was really interesting to hear about where they came from and also hear about their experiences now and where they envision themselves. I can’t say there was any one conversation that especially stood out, but I did enjoy [the event] very much."

The event was a great success, and we look forward to hosting it again next fall semester. Stay tuned to our social media pages for more info about next semester's 3C's!