November 26, 2002

CAPS Launches Discussions on Minority Experience at Cornell

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Dr. Sigrid Frandsen-Pachenik, psychologist for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), launched a series of discussions last week entitled “The Joys and Challenges of Being Other-Than-Caucasian at Cornell.” Starting next semester, the informal discussions, co-sponsored by the Latino Studies Program (LSP), are scheduled to be held Tuesday afternoons.

Speaking Up

Pachenik encourages students to join in the conversations as they are a time when Latino students can “support each other as we navigate through the Cornell experience together.”

The discussion comes at an important time for the Latino community at Cornell because Nov. 19 marked the ninth anniversary of the Day Hall takeover, when students sat in and around the administrative building demanding a Latino Studies department at Cornell and a Latino community center.

“This year we have met at least three of the demands that were presented by students in the 1993 Day Hall takeover … We need to proactively support these,” Daisy Torres ’05 wrote in an e-mail. There is now a Latino Living Center in Anna Comstock Hall, a Latino Studies Program, and a Latina psychologist. All of these developments are direct results of demands made by students during that tense week nine years ago.

About 50 members of the Latino community and its supporters held a vigil last week to commemorate the anniversary and to reflect on the advances and setbacks in the last nine years. There has also been an effort to rally behind the changes that have been made.

According to Gannett’s website, Pachenik’s specialties and interests are in “Severe trauma, acculturation issues, and couples and relational issues.” She grew up in Ecuador and moved to the United States when she was 16.


“I think people find it easier to relate to a psychologist who understands the issues they’re facing, a lot of which have to with the way they were raised in homes that are not necessarily traditionally American,” Torres said.

Pachenik also feels that her life experience aids her in her work at Cornell.

“Having been born in Ecuador, coming to the U.S. at 16, being raised by a Hispanic family, going through school in the US, and having worked with Latina individuals and families, is really helpful in connecting to the language and culture nuances of being a Latina student at Cornell,” she said.

Pachenik added that while it “takes a while to earn people’s trust and respect,” she thinks that after a year at Cornell, “the community is ready to embrace me.”

She also pointed out that Cornell is hardly singular in its need for a Latino psychologist.

“[That need] is universal of any setting where individuals of Hispanic heritage are served. Understanding the cultural origin of behaviors helps a clinician to not pathologize behavior that differs from the cultural norm,” Pachenik said.

Torres agreed that having a Latina psychologist is important on any college campus.

“I hope it would be available on other campuses. Our views and issues should be addressed on other campuses as well,” Torres said.

Archived article by Freda Ready