George Ann Huck, professor emerita, served Central College students from 1968 to 2005 as the residential director in Merida, Yucatan. She experienced a number of changes to Central’s program and within the country during those 37 years.
“From the moment of my first interviews with Central, I understood that curiosity and creativity were valued,” says Huck. “Working abroad in areas of intercultural learning that were slowly integrated into academia also offered a career of endless learning opportunities and surprises.”
Huck may have retired, but she has not slowed down. Her recent activities include directing the Association of Academic Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean (AAPLAC); founding the women’s rights group Por Nuestros Derechos, Mujeres en Red; serving as vice president and climate change chairperson for environmental group Merida Verde; and writing a book, titled Women of Yucatan: Thirty Who Dare to Change Their World, with Jann Freed, professor emerita of business management at Central.
Q: What studies prepared you to work abroad?
I received a B.A. in language and literature from Central Methodist College in Missouri. While a student there, I spent two summers at the University of Guanajuato, studying painting, history and literature. I then graduated early and took a scholarship to the National University of Mexico, where I studied philosophy and letters and political science. After that, I got an M.A. in Latin American studies from Tulane University. My Ph.D. in Spanish language and literature is also from Tulane University.
Q: What brought you to Central?
I came to Central right out of Tulane in the fall of 1968. That same year, in the spring, Dean Jim Graham had offered me the chance to go with Larry Mills and Maxine and Don Huffman to Central’s program in Mexico. Of course, that was the reason I had come to Iowa!
Q: Where do you live now?
On both sides of the border! I always spend summer in Commerce, Missouri, where I grew up and still have family. In Merida, I live with my longtime companion, painter Gabriel Ramirez, two dogs left over from the college house and three cats who came in from the street.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory from Central College Abroad?
There are far too many to pick a favorite! Students, faculty and their families who came to Yucatan and folks I came to know through the college all provide a kaleidoscope of nourishing memories and exciting tales. Beatriz Alcocer de Castillo, who worked with me at the college house for so many years, declares almost every week, that we should write a book about our adventures on the front line of international studies!
Q: Did any major changes occur during your time with Central?
Well, Mexico changed, drastically. Besides that, I believe technology crept in quietly before we had our defenses ready. Though it was touted as bringing the world together, I believe that is on a very superficial level. Consequently, we must work harder as academic leaders to facilitate and teach cultural understanding through experiences and lively discourse.
Q: Do you have any advice for students considering study abroad today?
Be daring and curious, always respectful of the other (culture), and prepare yourself in a disciplined way to disconnect technologically from your home culture. Immersion is a failure with your phone in your hand and a computer at the ready.
Q: Any final thoughts?
My years at Central College enriched my life—and continue to do so. Thank heaven I responded to Jim Graham’s letter on the Tulane bulletin board!