Photo for Global studies framework connects senior
A summer travel study program in Paris was a major highlight of Jordy Magallanes' undergraduate education, changing his perspective on travel altogether. (Photo: Peggy McInerny/ UCLA.)

Global studies framework connects senior's life, family heritage and international interests

“I stumbled upon global studies, which, as an interdisciplinary major, felt very much geared toward what I wanted to study. I felt the skills that I would learn were very malleable and transferable,” says graduating senior Jordy Magallanes.

“It's very interesting that people are sharing their migration experiences. They want to be seen, which contrasts to the idea of migrants hiding or keeping to themselves,” says Magallanes of his senior thesis research on the social media posts of Latino migrants.

By Peggy McInerny, Director of Communications

UCLA International Institute, June 15, 2023 — When Jordy Magallanes graduates summa cum laude this June with a B.A. in both global studies and political science, it will mark the end of four momentous years in the talented student’s life.

Family history tied Magallanes to UCLA long before he became a Bruin. His grandparents and parents on both sides emigrated from Zacatecas, Mexico to settle in the U.S., and the first jobs of one grandfather were at hotels on Sunset Boulevard adjacent to campus. Growing up, both of his Spanish-speaking grandmothers early identified with UCLA as an LA cultural icon, and one had her last child at a UCLA hospital.

“She took a lot of pride in him being born at UCLA. I’m really glad that when she was still alive, I was able to tell her in person that I was going to come here for school,” he says. “I thought recently how beautiful it is that my grandfather’s first jobs were near UCLA and now his grandson is studying here.

“It just goes to show that my life reflects one part of a whole generational family tale of migration and highlights our shared history, not only of our ties to Mexico, but of creating ties in Los Angeles,” he reflects.

Born and raised in Inglewood, Magallanes graduated from high school as a top student and began studying political science at El Camino College while working a full-time frontline job at Ralph’s throughout the first two years of the pandemic.

He chose political science because he was fascinated by international relations. Over time, he found himself wanting to learn more about culture and economics “to get a more realistic idea of what international relations looks like.”

He credits wonderful professors at El Camino College for creating a network of support that gave him the confidence to regularly ask for advice. When he arrived at UCLA in 2021, he recounts, “I stumbled upon global studies, which, as an interdisciplinary major, felt very much geared toward what I wanted to study. I felt the skills that I would learn were very malleable and transferable.

“We’re talking about understanding culture and society, governance and conflict, markets and resources. I was also really inspired by the fact that it was built into the curriculum to travel abroad and write a senior thesis,” he explains. He ended up doing a double major because many of the requirements overlapped. “I’m very proud of that as a transfer student,” he says.

His favorite courses in the global studies major were the summer 2022 travel study program that he attended in Paris (“Global Challenges in Postcolonial France,” taught by UCLA Professor Ali Behdad) and his senior thesis research seminar, followed by the actual process of writing the thesis.

“The ability to go to Paris, this world-renowned city, and study as part of my major felt really empowering. Growing up, my family never really went on vacations. We’ve always been working class: you do your work continuously with a day off here and there.”

Looking back on his undergraduate years, Magallanes says, “My first years [of college] were all about managing school and work life. During the pandemic, I never really went out. All I did was work and go back home, and get a coffee every now and then.”

When he transferred to UCLA, the first-gen student chose to live on campus in a residential hall during his junior year, then switched to a Westwood apartment in his senior year.

“I really appreciate that I’ve had two years of the so-called college experience of being on campus: able to make friends and have the opportunity to stay here for meetings or other opportunities that just arise,” he says.

Living in a dorm after the most restrictive Covid-19 precautions were lifted, he says, “was a whole re-introduction to social life, almost like a rebirth. You had to have good people skills. It was a mix of learning how to communicate and be part of a student body again, but also being academically inclined and building a resume for yourself.” It appears that the articulate, thoughtful senior has succeeded on both counts.

In addition to becoming an Academic Advancement Program Scholar, Magallanes has been producing and hosting a Spotify talk show, “Netcliques,” for the past year (gaining excellent interview skills in the process) and has worked at UCLA Radio in the music department since January 2022.

He has also been an active member of SWC Sexperts, a student association dedicated to providing sexual health education, where he personally emphasized resources and community for queer students of color. “I really love the club because of its holistic approach and how they don’t want anyone to be left behind. It works to destigmatize talk about sex and deconstructs a lot of [negative] perspectives on having a healthy sex life.”

Among his many achievements at UCLA, Magallanes is perhaps most proud of his work on his senior thesis, which brings together his love of the internet, knowledge of social media algorithms and family history of migration. The research paper examines how Latino migrants making the journey North from Latin America record and document their experiences on social media, creating a living online archive of migration in real time.

“It’s very interesting that people are sharing their migration experiences. They want to be seen, which contrasts to the idea of migrants hiding or keeping to themselves,” he comments.

“I wanted to study this material because it gives you [the perspectives] of the people who are going through the process, together with the human smugglers. Both of them are telling their personal stories.”

Magallanes began by looking at postings on several social media platforms, then narrowed his focus to videos posted on TikTok. As opposed to written personal testimonies, he says, “Videos are more digestible and they also humanize migrants.”

“You hear full-on stories of family separations and peoples’ descriptions of being tortured in detainment camps. It’s very traumatic work,” he says. The Bruin is grateful for the support and guidance of his thesis adviser, Professor Jason de León, who has been attentive to protecting the migrants’ privacy and understanding of the difficulties that Magallanes, as an undergraduate, has faced in processing and writing about difficult primary sources.

Looking ahead, the soon-to-be alumnus is currently in the running for a data analysis position at Univision, a Spanish-language news outlet, where he would continue to refine his knowledge of algorithms and social media analysis and, perhaps, production skills.

His advice for students interested in global studies is simple: “You’re on the right track. I think there’s a stigma to pursuing a bachelor’s degree if it’s not in pursuit of being a lawyer or an engineer. It’s important, especially as a first-gen student, to deconstruct that narrative.

“Know that success and your future are going to be determined by how you determine success. There is more than one way to be successful. If you want to pursue a global studies degree, then that’s you building your life the way that you want to build it.” Magallanes has clearly heeded his own advice and is now a model for what global studies students can achieve in the program.