A class on Argentinian literature and culture took Jacqueline Sandoval down an unexpected path.

The advanced-level course, taught by Associate Professor of Spanish Meg Crosby, required Sandoval and her classmates to complete roughly 10 hours of community service. Students were encouraged to connect their service to their chosen career paths, so Sandoval, a Psychology major, volunteered at the UMOS Latina Resource Center in Milwaukee.

Specifically, Sandoval helped facilitate group therapy sessions for about 10 women who have experienced domestic violence. During the sessions, the women would build an “ugly house” made of paper on which they had written words to represent the cruelty they faced or the challenges facing their families. As they built, the women were encouraged to reflect on their feelings. Once they had reflected, they would knock down the house.

“They would tear it apart, which represented being able to talk about those problems and being able to get rid of them and to leave them in the past,” Sandoval says. “After they did that, they would start building a new house.”

The women worked together to decorate the new house, which included choosing positive words to reflect their hopes for the future. “So many women chose hope, love or their children,” Sandoval says.

At the culmination of the sessions, the women displayed their work and shared their future hopes. Sandoval says the short time frame of the program didn’t allow for complete healing, but it nevertheless represented a significant step forward.

“At first the women were very hesitant to talk about their problems, especially being in a new group and not knowing anyone. But after, the women started feeling more comfortable with each other,” she says. “Many women were thinking about what they were going to do in the future, so it really did help the women a lot.”

The experience left a lasting impression on Sandoval and helped her define her career path.

“It really clarified that that’s what I want to go into,” she says. “I’m hoping that I’m able to work with women, specifically those who have been through domestic abuse and violence, and I want to work with their families as well. My main focus would be the Hispanic community.”

Sandoval complemented her service with research. Among the data she uncovered is that one in three Latinas have experienced domestic violence. She presented her findings – in Spanish – at a conference in Madison in October.

Sandoval appreciates the relationships she has been able to build with classmates and faculty like Crosby, who invited her to the conference. The sense of community at Alverno extends far beyond academics.

“Everybody is very respectful of everybody’s culture. It allows people to express themselves without feeling like they will be judged,” she says. “That’s really important, and that’s something that I love about Alverno.”

When Sandoval graduates in May 2019, she hopes to pursue a Master of Science in Community Psychology at Alverno and then become a licensed counselor.