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Building Inclusion Through Philanthropy

Laura Gutierrez-Spencer '82


Headshot of Laura Guiterrez

Dr. Laura Gutierrez-Spencer ’82 attended Agnes Scott College for only two years, but those years were deeply influential in a life already touched by issues of equity and inclusion in education. Her early awareness and sensibilities — her mother founded the first bilingual educational program in Silver City, New Mexico in the early 1970s — were further strengthened by her Agnes Scott experience. Now after an impactful career in academia, Laura understands that her background, professional expertise and philanthropic support can have a transformative and lasting impact at the college.

This fall, Laura documented a legacy gift to Agnes Scott that will create two endowed funds supporting Latino/Latin American/Spanish studies and Hispanic/Latinx students. The two funds are:

  • The Faculty Fund for U.S. Latino/Latin American/Spanish Studies which will support faculty who teach Spanish, Portuguese, history and other fields in the arts and humanities as well as sociology and anthropology, for faculty research, conference travel and/or teaching-related activities focusing on Latinos/as in the U.S., Latin America and Spain.
  • The U.S. Latina Scholarship Fund which will provide need-based tuition assistance with a preference for Hispanic or Latinx students, including U.S. resident students who trace their origin or ancestry to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central and South America, and other Spanish cultures.

“For the good of our country and our planet, the histories, languages, and cultures of the globe should be a central focus of our modern educational system,” Laura said.

Laura’s parents — teachers and activists educated at the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University — wanted her and her sister to experience the small class sizes and emphasis on critical reading and writing of small liberal arts colleges for their first two years of higher education. When local opposition to her mother’s bilingual educational program in Silver City negatively colored Laura’s middle and high school years, Laura sought out a far-away college experience. Agnes Scott fit both her and her parents’ criteria.

Unfamiliar with the cultural traditions of the South and among only a handful of students of color, Laura experienced social unease throughout her time at Agnes Scott. She also learned about her own preconceptions, discovering Atlanta's upper-class African American society.

“Although my education at Agnes Scott was exceptional,” she says, “there were large holes in the curriculum. In our English literature classes we exclusively read the works of white British and white U.S. authors. Even my distinguished history professor, who was stellar, had this blind spot.”

Her time at Agnes Scott further sparked her interest in equity and she credits the college for giving her the motivation to pursue a career in academia. She remembers exceptional teachers, especially Jack Nelson, her first English professor. 

After earning her undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder, her master’s degree at New Mexico State University and her doctorate in Latin American Literature at the University of New Mexico, Laura spent seven years at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she taught Spanish and Chicano Studies. After obtaining her tenure and promotion at UNLV, she switched from academia to student affairs in order to return home to New Mexico. Laura held the position of Director of Chicano Programs at New Mexico State University (NMSU) in Las Cruces for 24 years, retiring this June.

Laura’s legacy gift to the first higher education institution she attended brings together her diverse background and experience during a time of important changes taking place within and outside of Agnes Scott. 

“In gratitude to my parents for giving me the gift of an Agnes Scott education,” Laura says, “I want to increase access to Agnes Scott for more U.S. Latinas.  Further increasing the diversity of the student body will benefit not only the scholarship recipients but will also enrich the entire campus community.”  

Her gift in support of faculty in Latina/o Studies is made in order to educate all Agnes Scott students on the importance of Hispanos on the global stage and in the development of the United States of America.  

Learn more about legacy giving at Agnes Scott.

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