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Campus Celebrity: Mayra Valle

Meet this week’s Campus Celebrity: the stunning Mayra Valle! Mayra is involved with many things on campus and she is a phenomenal dancer!  She is currently in the process of choreographing three pieces and learning 13 different dances for the upcoming 2014 Eclipse Show.  Mayra is one of the sweetest and welcoming people on campus, and you can always find her with a smile on her face. Read on to learn more about the woman that does it all!

Class Year: Senior 2014
 
Double Major: Latin American Studies and Dance
 
Center: CISLA Scholar in Spanish Language
 
Extracurricular activities: Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows, Eclipse participant and student leader, Coffee Grounds’ barista, Knowlton House Fellow, manager for Men’s Varsity Basketball Team, and Unity House Ambassador. 
 
Hometown: Houston, TX
 
Tell us about your experience with Eclipse throughout your years at Conn!
 
I actually heard about Eclipse as a perspective student. I was invited to campus, and in my moments of nervousness I would dance. Even though I did not expect anyone to be watching, Tremana White pinched me and said, “listen, you have to come to campus and dance with me.” At the time I had no idea she was the President of Eclipse, and that I would go from being a dancer, to choreographer, to club leader in four years. She showed me how necessary multicultural awareness is to a campus like Connecticut College, and told me that the essence of Eclipse is community. Through my involvement in the show, I met my best friend who taught me that Eclipse means solidarity, dancers who believe Eclipse means unity, and alumni who believe Eclipse means justice. No matter how much Eclipse has changed, it has remained a haven for students of color and allies in the fight for adequate representation and multicultural awareness.
 
What has been your most memorable dance performance so far?
 
I am actually working on it now. I am choreographing a piece about domestic violence in Latino communities which continues to plague our families. Through working with my cast members and conducing extensive research on the matter, I have grown more passionate about the reasons why massive amounts of cases go unreported. This is actually my first time choreographing a Hip Hop/ Contemporary piece. I am quite nervous about trying something new, but really excited about how people will come to see this reality if executed correctly. 
 
Did you get the chance to study abroad your junior year?
 
During the spring semester of 2013, I went to Cuba with a couple of my peers through the SATA Cuba program. 
 
Tell us more about your CISLA project and internship!
 
My research experience in Cuba during the spring semester of 2013 influenced my project entitled, “Embodying Lo Caliente de Casino: An Investigation of Performative Sensuality of Afro-Cuban Women,” which argues that the understudied Cuban dance form, Casino, provided a space for black Cuban women to assert their own subjectivity and to challenge patriarchy. They created more sexually liberating choreography, and women were now leaders and artistic gatekeepers. Casino truly epitomized the Yoruba idea of equity through performance. Through my internship in Nicaragua last summer, I was given the opportunity to continue learning the intricacies of Casino.
During my CISLA internship, I was a dance teacher and a Casino company member of Studio Bailalo. I can honestly say that these cast members became close friends of mine after those 2 months. They not only taught me the steps, but also helped me understand the cultural context by which they arose. I was immensely blessed to have had the guidance of these experts in the field. 
 
Do you have any advice for underclassman on how to make the most during their time at Conn?
 
Without a doubt, take advantage of every opportunity that made you choose this institution and partake in activities that fuel your drive and curiosity. It is becoming increasingly more expensive to pursue higher education, and it is now more pertinent than ever to make that amount representative of the resources you have taken advantage of. I chose to attend Connecticut College because of the CISLA program and the Mellon Mays program that would help me focus on my academic interests. I would not have gotten this support elsewhere, and I believe that people should be open to every opportunity because these instances of exposure could lead to you find a new passion that ignites your fire and pushes you to action.
 
Have you gotten everything you wanted out of Conn?
 
That is a bit complicated for me. Simply put yes, because I have been highly involved during my time here, and in that aspect I definitely think I have developed the skills that will be necessary to get through any obstacle along the way. I have been challenged academically, socially, athletically, and personally, but these instances have helped solidify my desire to push towards multicultural equity and social justice. However, with so much exposure to issues on campus it is a bit overwhelming to decide what to spearhead and what to support from the sidelines. There is so much to do, and not many want to do it. The trick is to speak to others about what you learn, invite them to events, support their interests, and help create future campus leaders to inspire others to do the same. 
 
What do you do in your free time?
 
I am a huge fan of power naps and bubble baths (though not at the same time). There is really nothing like the feeling you get when you sleep for 20 minutes between classes to get you though the day. However, when I am a bit busier I usually hop in my bathtub and read for my upcoming courses. 
 
What has been your favorite class at Conn?
 
Latinos in the US with Dean Garcia is my favorite course thus far. It has helped me see a different historical lens on how people like me came to America. We take a close look at culture, migration, and social movements that make me proud to be a Mexican American woman. I have gained a newfound awareness of myself and my history. 
 
What is your secret? How do you handle so many large responsibilities?
 
I feel like fancy titles for extracurricular activities make it seem like people dread the work they do, but these activities are an extension of my true passions. I think it is truly about surrounding yourself with people that will push you, people that are just as passionate as you about a topic, people that will challenge you, and people that will support you. I have been blessed enough to have friends that are in the fight towards multicultural awareness and equity. It is essential to be in awe of those around you. Without a doubt, my friends and family are my biggest source of respect and motivation. I also love everything I am doing. Nothing seems like work. 
 
Favorite place on campus?
 
Hands down, Coffee Grounds! It is a great study space that never fails to inspire some of my most creative and cohesive ideas. Not looking to study? Don’t fret, we also host events that are sure to make you feel at home. This space is so welcoming, and smack dab in the middle of campus, please feel free to stop by. 
 
Favorite Netflix show?
 
It will definitely come as a no surprise to my Knowlton residents (because they always find me in this compromising position) that I love covering myself in a Snuggie, eating cupcakes, while watching Cake Boss. If this is not the perfect recipe for a relaxing Sunday night, I do not know what is. 
 
Favorite Book?
 
This is a tough one. I would say it’s a close tie between Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Sandra Cisneros’ Caramelo.
 
What are the top 3 things on your bucket list?
 
I would love to say bungee jump off of a bridge, enter a bull-riding contest, or go skydiving. However, those are way too dangerous for me. I would actually love to go whale watching at some point. I hear there is something so scary, yet rewarding about watching whales jump out of the water and praying they do not hit your boat. I would also like to cross off the words, create an NGO for undocumented workers in Houston, Tx after graduate school, from my bucket list. Lastly, I wish I could go on tour with a famous artist and become a back-up dancer. Yes, very ambitious, but no harm in wishing big. 
 
Guilty pleasure?
 
I hate to admit it, but I absolutely love getting my daily dose of telenovelas. At the moment I am watching a novela with my mother. It is about a young girl, Nina, who is avenging her father’s death after her stepmother kills him. Nina takes on an alternate identity, and becomes her stepmother’s personal chef only in attempt to ruin her reputation. Although the story line is elaborate and extremely suspenseful, I truly watch it because I get to converse with my mother everyday about something less academic for a bit. 
 
Any big plans after graduation?
 
Yes, actually I am considering graduate school opportunities in the Latin American Studies and Performance Studies fields. I have been admitted to a few institutions, and I am still so conflicted. I am so thankful to have been admitted to these amazing programs and I have no idea which to choose.

Good luck in whatever you decide, Mayra! We know you’ll be successful in whatever you pursue!!

Emily Morgan is a junior at Connecticut College.  She is studying international relations and loves to write for HerCampus.  She can be found either playing viola in the orchestra or dancing in the dance studio.  
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