Senior Send-off: Alejandra Roggero
You can tell a lot about a person by the pins they wear on their jacket — or, at least, that is true of graduating fourth-year Alejandra Roggero, communist Xicana whose jean jacket collar is adorned with a miniature Virgen de Guadalupe and an iconic five-pointed red star. Rocking them like thorns on a nopal, her aesthetic coat of arms embodies Roggero’s fiercely vibrant character.
After graduating from Whittier High School in 2015, Roggero could not wait to leave her small-town neighborhood behind. “I felt like I was suffocating,” said Roggero. Her acceptance to the Journalism program at San Francisco State University was her ticket out. However, it was not long before Roggero realized she could not leave her family, particularly her mother — a realization that landed her at Whittier College.
During her time as a Poet, maintaining a robust social life was not high on Roggero’s list of priorities. In addition to crafting her own Postcolonial Studies Major with a minor in Narrative Journalism through the Whittier Scholars Program, Roggero was no stranger to work. She had her share of waitressing gigs in Uptown and elsewhere. The first job she held on campus, however, was a Student Coordinator position through the Amy Biehl Foundation, where she taught high school students in the Whittier City School District about human rights under the mentorship of Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Engagement with Communities Joyce Kaufman. She later worked as an assistant to the English and History Department under Director of the Writing Program Charles Eastman and Administrative Assistant Angela Olivas, who Roggero grew close to and has often depended on throughout her career at Whittier.
Eventually yielding to her wanderlust and long-standing desire to escape the confines of Whittier, Roggero seized an opportunity to spend a semester abroad in Morocco, where she studied human rights, social movements, Arabic, and the Arab Spring. It was there, in the remote village of Tarmilat, where Roggero began the work she would eventually incorporate into her capstone project.
Her research focused on the Amazigh, Morocco’s indigenous population. Roggero was interested in the ways in which the Amazigh women’s artistic tradition of carpet weaving informs and is informed by their indigenous identity. The months she spent away from home and her family compelled Roggero to make meaningful connections with the women she was listening to and learning from. “In retrospect,” said Roggero, “I was really trying to find and connect with my own indigenous identity — and that process of self-discovery hasn’t stopped.”
Despite persistent encouragement to do so, Roggero was initially reluctant to join the Quaker Campus (QC) and focused more on her own creative work, having just published her second collection of short stories and looking to publish a collection of poetry. But, eventually — after much prodding from Faculty Advisor Joe Donnelly and then Editors-in-Chief (EIC) Tyler “Ty” Lopez and Emily Rich, Class of 2018 — Roggero came on board as the Campus Life editor after returning to the U.S. in Spring of 2018. She was promoted to Deputy EIC later that Fall, and the experience has been nothing short of transformative for the aspiring writer.
“Before I joined the QC, I felt like I was floating,” said Roggero. “I didn’t have a central friend group. I felt disconnected from the college experience.” Joining the publication did much to change that by putting Roggero in contact with people who shared her personality, interests, and passions. “Working for the QC was also a way I could disconnect from the day-to-day drama of family and stress of school. It took my head away from things I didn’t want to think about or deal with, and it still does that for me.”
Roggero’s new position as Deputy EIC definitely pulled her out of her comfort zone, but, in recent months, she has truly come into her own and embraced the role wholeheartedly. Since her promotion, Roggero considers herself privileged to have been able to help develop sections, edit “way too many” articles, collaborate with other media organizations, recruit and train fresh blood, and work both individually and collectively with an “incredibly talented” staff.
Chief among Roggero’s favorite projects at the paper was a colorfully engaging (if short-lived) sex and relationship column called Thoughts from a Twin XL featured in Campus Life. Roggero’s favorite piece from the column was one in which she wrote about the anxieties that come with meeting your partner’s family. Roggero graciously added that she “wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without my dear EIC (fourth-year Madison White) and Managing Editor (third-year Autumn Dixon).” She is also deeply grateful to the QC for their patience and support these past two semesters, as she mourned the untimely death of her cousin and passing of her grandmother, which followed not long thereafter.
As she prepares to turn the page and embark on the next daunting chapter of adulthood, Roggero intends to translate the skills she has developed into a career in the media industry. Last summer, she participated in an internship at EPIC Magazine that provided her an opportunity to do just that. “I learned so much,” said Roggero. “I really connected with the people there and with a lot of the projects we were working on.” Among these projects was a trip to Jordan, where Roggero taught students in a documentary film school program located in the Azraq refugee camp.
After working for a few years (hopefully back at EPIC), Roggero plans on continuing her education and pursuing a doctorate in Creative Writing, American Studies, or Chicano Studies. Regardless of what she chooses to focus on, Roggero is certain that her work — both academic and professional — will always have a postcolonial basis.
Inspired by her grandparents, Roggero is deeply interested in covering the current migration crisis at the southern border. Ultimately, she aspires to write stories on indigenous and colonized people and indigeneity in general. “I want to write stories about people in my community,” said Roggero. “I want to write about our collective struggle.” Whether she is cultivating personal growth in her students or igniting the revolutionary consciousness of the masses, Roggero will no doubt continue to honor her late grandmother’s legacy of love, courage, and self-sacrifice.