Carla Mendiola, 38, History
Carla Meniola earned her bachelor's degree in history from Rice University in 1991 and her master's in history from the University of Texas at Austin in 1993. She worked in radio/TV production and as a teacher at San Antonio Community College before beginning SMU's five-year history Ph.D. program in 2007.
As a first-year Ph.D. student, Meniola is currently doing course work. One of the four classes she is taking this semester is Research on the Southwest, taught by professor John Chavez, and the work she is doing for that class ties in directly with the thesis she will be writing.
SMU's History Department is known for its strength in Southwestern border history and Meniola's work adds to that body of knowledge with an intriguing twist. She is writing a comparison of the Texas/Mexico border and the Maine/Canada border in the early 1900s pegged to two of her ancestors, her grandfather, Sandy Leveck, and her grandmother, Elodia McDonald.
Leveck, who was of French-Canadian ancestry, was from Caribou, Maine, and McDonald, whose ancestors were primarily Mexican-American, lived in Hidalgo. They met and married when Leveck was in Texas with the U.S. Cavalry. Meniola's work will look at the ways living in a border area, where languages and cultures mix and clash, affected each of their lives. Via this case study, she will analyze similarities and differences between the Texas-Mexico border experience and the Maine-Canada border experience, including the experience of being a cultural outsider. Primary sources she will use in her research will be the usual documents that history researchers rely upon, but will also include interviews with some of her relatives.
It used to be frowned upon for history students to look into their own history, but that's been changing, Mendiola says.