Teacher Feature: Torrie Hester

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Teacher Feature: Torrie Hester

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Not all professors have their area of research debated both nationally and internationally as frequently as Dr. Torrie Hester, a professor in SLU’s History Department.
Hester’s research concentrates on U.S. deportation policies from the end of the Civil War to 1924. She has also studied contemporary deportation policies, focusing on repatriation agreements between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, as well as the influx of immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking entry into the U.S.
Looking historically at the issue of immigration creates opportunities to puzzle out solutions not just for North America, but potentially for Asia and the Middle East, too.
Hester became inspired to study the Western U.S. by Brian Dippie while she was an undergraduate student in Canada. Later, while in graduate school at Cal State in Los Angeles, Hester worked with Francisco Balderrama, whose research focuses on the U.S.’s deportation of Mexicans in the 1930s.
Dr. Hester’s hope for US immigration policy is that it can better meet labor demands with a flexible system of immigration. While the U.S. does provide support for refugees and immigrants, it is often easier to criticize than other countries because of the sheer size of its operation.
The U.S. is also the largest donor to the UNHCR, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or UN Refugee Agency. As a scholar of immigration, Hester confessed that it is easy to criticize everybody.
In her work with undergraduates, Hester has found that students actually enjoy developing their analytical voice in order to understand history more deeply, using the lenses of gender, race or other power dynamics. She noted how rewarding it is to see a shift in students even just over the course of a single semester. Dr. Hester also noted that it is not just students who major in history who find such analytical skills helpful.
To students interested in pursuing work as college professors, Hester encourages them to seek out mentors for all reasons, since professors often have different strengths themselves.
She noted just how rewarding work as a professor is, being able to work with other smart people, to learn new things every day, as well as to have the privilege to work with students. Anyone who finds such work sustaining, although it can be difficult at times, is encouraged to pursue it.
Hester added that resilience and hard work are a must to succeed in the profession.
Outside of the academy, Hester values her time spent as a volunteer with Catholic Charities, specifically in their legal aid office, where she worked with victims of domestic abuse.
The Violence Against Women Act protects immigrants whose immigrant status is being used against them by their abuser, but it requires a lengthy application process. Often having to meet for 10 one-hour sessions with a single victim in order to record a narrative that documents such abuse, Hester walked victims of domestic abuse through the required vow application.
When asked what she would change about SLU, she wishes that there were more scholarships offered, although she noted that one of the differences between the U.S. and Canadian higher education systems is the greater amount of funding available for graduate students in the U.S.
Students interested in learning more about the history of U.S. immigration policies are invited to a lecture on Feb 12, when Madeline Hsu will lecture on the topic of her new book, “The Good Immigrants: How the Yellow Peril Became the Model Minority.”
Hsu will cover the history of pathways to both entry and citizenship for immigrants as well as the exclusionary and recruitment policies of the U.S. in targeting desirable immigrants.