Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies
Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

Staff Spotlight: Zhandra Andrade

Thu, September 14, 2017
Staff Spotlight: Zhandra Andrade

Step into Zhandra Andrade’s office and you will see evidence of world travel. An ornate metal box from Mexico, inlaid with blue-and-white tiles, sits atop an embroidered Chinese tablecloth. Andean scenes jump out of hand-sewn squares from Peru. On the bookshelf, a tiny Australian koala dressed for a journey through the Outback is kept company by several alebrijes, Mexican fantasy animals made of papier-mâché and painted in bright colors. The only thing remaining of some Colombian coffee is the decorative bag it came in, while a green tin of Japanese tea has not quite been finished. The bar of soap from Greece might not get used, since the label is pretty, and somewhat unusual.

Andrade herself has lived in three different countries, but the souvenirs in her office are tokens of appreciation from visitors from across the globe. As LLILAS Benson’s Visitor Programs Coordinator, she welcomes and orients researchers who have come to campus to use the vast resources of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. She loves this aspect of her job—receiving people from all over the world, learning about their research, their place of origin, and their culture.

A native of Valencia, Carabobo, Venezuela, Zhandra Andrade has worked at LLILAS Benson since 2013. In addition to coordinating visitors, she is the course scheduler, a systems job that satisfies her “geek side,” she says. She is widely known by colleagues to be a whiz with spreadsheets, numbers, and all things IT. She is also known and admired for her tenacity and discipline: she earned her master’s in educational administration from The University of Texas at Austin College of Education in May 2017 while working full time and raising two daughters, Kazandra, eleven, and Zamantha, six, along with her husband, Miguel, a U.S. Army veteran.

Andrade was the first in her family to go to college. She began her higher education at a Grays Harbor Community College in Washington State. Her mother, Cecilia, was prohibited from finishing high school, and her late father, Ramiro, was orphaned at age seven and never finished elementary school. He encouraged his daughter to get a college degree. Both parents were born in Colombia, and lived as immigrants in Venezuela during Andrade’s childhood and younger adulthood.

Andrade says the higher education master’s program sharpened her awareness of the struggles common to minority and first-generation students—struggles that set them apart from many of their peers and with which she herself can identify. “I was told when I started community college through a workforce program, that my only option, the only degree I could choose out of the whole college, was the hospitality program, nothing else,” says Andrade. Through the encouragement of an adviser from Colombia, she earned associate degrees in both arts and business, and went on to study management information systems at Washington State University for her bachelor’s degree.

She hopes to be a similar voice of encouragement to others. She would also like to find a way to work with veterans who are pursuing a higher education degree. Her firsthand knowledge of the hurdles faced by veterans who have returned from combat makes her highly qualified to be of service to them.

In her newfound free time, she hopes to do more dancing (salsa and merengue) and some camping with her family. She avidly keeps the cultures of Venezuela and Colombia alive for her daughters, preparing arepas and other traditional foods at home. Is there a PhD in her future? At the moment, that is not even a question. For now, on the heels of two years of hard work, Zhandra Andrade plans to play a little more.

Photo by Carla Silva-Muhammad

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  • Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

    University of Texas at Austin
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    2300 Red River Street D0800
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