Real Womxn’s Voices: Rosa Tapia

The assumption that there is a universal and singular experience as a womxn erases the nuances and variety that exists. This column seeks to address the many intersections that overlap in an individual’s life. All this is done in an effort to celebrate the reality of womxnhood in the various ways it may be expressed, and most importantly of all, the individual themselves.

The identities that encompass Professor Rosa Tapia are ones that make her infinitely proud: an educator, an academic and a humanist. Each is grounded in an inherent love for knowledge and growth, so she happily occupies several interdisciplinarity studies on campus. 

So, it is is not a surprise to hear that Tapia finds it difficult to even name her favorite studies, but she shows a deep appreciation for every work that inspires her professionally and personally. Tapia credits her intellectual curiosity to her hometown in southern Spain, Ubeda. It was difficult not to find herself constantly astonished by the wonders offered by the UNESCO site, but instead to absorb as much information about them as possible. 

“I suppose that growing up surrounded by so much beauty instilled in me a passion for history, art and culture,” Tapia said. “[So] many famous contemporary musicians and writers [come from there].” 

Her own family has a teaching background and experience, but once Tapia entered the academic world of higher education, she discovered that she was in a vastly different world than the one her family members previously experienced. The opportunities offered to her were often daunting in their possibility. In retrospect, Tapia wishes she had mined them for their potential. 

At the end of her undergraduate career, she found herself educated, but unsure exactly how she wanted to utilize her English degree. She also keenly felt as if the education system in her home country had restricted her focus to just her major. The passions she loved dearly were left unexplored and untapped, particularly a dream to study abroad. She eventually continued to pursue academic work after an experience in the U.S. After finishing graduate school, Tapia’s openness to learning eventually led her to Lawrence. 

“It was somewhat serendipitous, but now it feels like it was always meant to be,” Tapia laughed. 

As a teacher of language and culture, Tapia is tasked with being both the introduction for many students into the Spanish-speaking world and its myriad cultural aspects and the facilitator of intercultural dialogue. In her higher-level courses, the discussions differ in content, mirroring the thoughtful discussions one would expect to occur within a humanities course. 

Regardless of the level or the course, Tapia believes the teaching philosophy should be the same.  

“My teaching is student-centered based on academic dialogue and communication,” she said. The students may often acquire the tools from her, but ultimately, the power within the classroom lies with them. The dialogue that emerges can be profoundly personal and compelling — but this was not always the case. Tapia admits that the potential reached in her classroom is certainly an outcome of the current political awareness of her students. 

“I look at my work here and my life here through the lens of an immigrant,” Tapia explained. “You’re always looking at things with two different sets of eyes. [The tools of language] have become more actively used and applied, because [the students] are more aware.” 

In the past, she found herself frequently explaining why doing certain things were important — not just to a general understanding for the class — but beyond the classroom. The conjugation of a verb may be essential for a correct answer, but understanding the importance of linguistic variation is far more valuable to the contemporary world. 

A generation of students involved in activism and championing inclusion above all else creates more than just a dynamic classroom. 

Tapia believes the same now as she did then: teaching the Spanish language extends far beyond a professional dream or accomplishment of hers. It always has, but considering the rise of extremist ideologies and the exclusionary nature that fuels them, studying culture and language has become more important than ever. 

“It is a form of ethical resistance against ignorance and against a toxic social and political discourse,” Tapia said firmly. 

The consciousness Tapia approaches her work with partly comes from watching others work towards empowering invisible voices. Inspired, she tries to do her own part to empower and question the systems around her. But mainly, that consciousness naturally comes from her own experiences at life.  

“I live womxnhood as a state of constant awareness and questioning of the social constructs and the system that expects us to be, think and behave along gender lines,” Tapia said. “My ability to resist these pressures is still a work in progress, but they are always present in my mind.”