Back in search of equality and progress: Lisa Guedea Carreño By Dustin Combs ’08
Born in Chicago in 1961 just before the civil rights movement peaked, campus librarian Lisa Guedea Carreño had no idea what battles would challenge and define her as a person. Guedea Carreño’s family moved several times before her father felt called to be a pastor in Alice, Texas.
It was in Texas that Guedea Carreño experienced intense discrimination. Being half Anglo and half Latino, “I was on the outside of the outsiders,” said Guedea Carreño. Seeking to fit in, she was involved in everything; as a cheerleader, student council president and class valedictorian. But as hard as she tried, her success only distanced her from her Latino friends, and acceptance from the white kids never came.
Guedea Carreño chose Hesston (Kan.) College after attending a Mennonite World Conference while in high school. Having only limited exposure to the traditional Mennonite culture, Guedea Carreño was curious about it. There, and at Goshen College two years later, Guedea Carreño realized her lifelong struggle was about equality – as a woman and a minority.
“Things are rarely as simple as they seem,” Guedea Carreño, said recalling her undergraduate years and the decades since.
She perceived that the college was led by a white patriarchy that would never address diversity and gender issues. And she despaired that she had forced herself into gender roles.
After graduating in 1984, Guedea Carreño went on to get a master’s degree in library science. She then proved that a “minority” woman could be an invaluable asset to a corporation. Inc. magazine published a story on her success in accomplishing this goal.
The Inc. story put the alumna on Goshen College’s radar screen, and she was invited to give a convocation in 1999. What she didn’t know at the time was that the college’s library director was about to retire, making Guedea Carreño an ideal candidate for the position.
She initially declined the offer to apply for the job, but eventually reconsidered. She realized Goshen College had changed for the better. She knew this when she presented her ideas for the library and still got a job offer. Other changes she noted were the appointment of the first female president, Shirley H. Showalter, and the establishment of a multicultural education office.
As soon as she took her new job, Guedea Carreño began working on improvements she felt were important to the college’s future, such as adding a computer lab in the library and expanding electronic resources in the collection. But her ambitions go much deeper than library services. Now, more hopeful than angry, Guedea Carreño continues to work toward even greater awareness of injustice on a campus she once thought she would never see again.