Sandin: A Foot in Academic World, A Foot Outside

By Amber Abunassar – [email protected] – Staff Writer | Jan. 21, 2015 |
He has been in the position of not knowing if he can make it, but continuing to persevere nonetheless.
Once a first-generation college student, he said he tries to be there for his first-generation students and understands what they go through.
“I do not come from an intellectual or academic background,” said Pedro Sandín, a 65-year-old Spanish professor from Puerto Rico. “My parents didn’t go to college, so I never thought that an academic future was a possibility for me. I had never even given it a thought.”
As a professor, he said he understands the struggles and the dedication it takes to make it through college. According to Sandín, mentoring and pushing students to do well is something he enjoys.
“Students in every group really look up to you, and they expect something from you, and they are interested in what you are telling them,” Sandín said. “It’s never 100 percent of the class, it’s more like 10 or 15 percent.”
He said communication with his students is the most interesting and important part of his job.
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He said he was raised in a strict, non-academic society rooted in Catholicism, where he was told to get married, find a job and support his family. As he was trying to meet those social expectations, he found a teaching job through one of the three universities he attended.
He said he wanted to get married, start a family and find a job that would sustain them. However, he was thrown in a completely different direction when the university offered the job in exchange for payment for his master’s degree.
“So I was not initially drawn to teach,” Sandín said, “but once I accepted that position I knew I had to do the best job I could do, so I had to take it seriously.”
He said stepping into the academic world gave him a new perspective on life — a contrast to his education at a Catholic school.
He said he went through culture shock because he came from a very clear-cut experience of life — a place where all questions and answers in life were obvious — to an environment that values doubt, question and inquiry.
“I love inquiry,” Sandín said. “That’s who I am now.”
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Sandín said even though he has been in the academic world for many years, he still struggles with his identity.
“I always felt, and I still do partially, like I have one foot in the academic world and another foot outside,” Sandín said. “I would go from home to the university and I would find these tensions between those two worlds. Sometimes I favored the position that came from my family world. It’s a tension.”
He said he would never have foreseen becoming the person he is today, but he can still connect with his roots. He sees himself in the struggles of his students and said he tries to support them.
“I have become the person I thought I’d never be,” Sandín said. “But you never lose that, and you still feel for the students that are going through what you went through.”
He said he realizes the university is the best home for him.
“It has been really hard all through my life to accept myself as a professor and to accept the university as the
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place where I live,” Sandín said, “but I know that this is what I do better and this is the best place I could be.”