Exemplars 10

Restoring Hope

School of Social Work

A name represents who one is and one’s ancestry. I would like to share the history behind my name. My name is Catherine Luz Marrs Fuchsel and I am originally from Lima, Peru.

 My parents named me after St. Catherine of Siena, the 13th century saint who was known for her strong leadership and public speaking abilities.  My mother chose the name Catherine also because it was a name given to a queen. My middle name is Luz, after my mother. Luz means “light” and it is a Spanish name. Marrs is my father’s name and represents our Irish heritage. Fuchsel is my married name–and represents my new union with my husband’s culture, which is Austrian. I use “Luz” in order to place importance on my Peruvian heritage–the dominant ethnicity I identify with the most, in addition to my Catholic identity.

   I came to this country at the age of 6 and I have lived here most of my life. I speak fluent Spanish and English. We were lucky to be able to migrate to this country, and I consider myself a privileged immigrant–we had the proper documents to reside in this country legally. My parents’ dream of an education for their children began with my completion of a B.A. in political science from Arizona State University. I knew I wanted to help the world be a better place and I thought I could do it by creating and changing laws in our government. After a fellowship at Georgetown University the summer after my junior year and an internship at the U.S. House of Representatives, I decided that a career in politics was not for me! An experience with AmeriCorps-VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) in Ypsilanti, Mich., is what led me to love social work. I obtained my Master’s in Social Work (M.S.W.) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1998. I worked in three cities as a bilingual clinical social worker for 6 years before deciding to pursue a doctorate degree. I felt it was my moral obligation to explore a societal problem that needed attention–that of domestic violence among the immigrant Mexican community. I needed to tell the story of immigrant Mexican women living with domestic violence, the plight of living in the United States as an undocumented person, and the struggle to keep families together despite very difficult circumstances. The study I conducted examined the meaning of marriage and domestic violence among immigrant Mexican women in a southwestern city. One very important development that emerged from the study was how the Catholic Church serves as a support to immigrant Mexican women experiencing acts of domestic violence; in addition, I was able to develop a proposed domestic violence prevention model. Through the doctoral process, I became interested in learning how I could help women prevent acts of domestic violence before they entered into romantic relationships.

   Two years ago I moved to Minnesota from Arizona and I have been writing articles from the dissertation findings; currently, I am working on how to expand the findings from the study. One of the most important insights I have gained is that researchers studying the social problem of domestic violence need to spend more time and energy on examining prevention strategies for adolescent girls and young adult women. I think that researchers need to examine current anti-violence curriculums that are being offered in schools and religious institutions (for example, in the Catholic Church)–places where children, adolescents, and young adults are taught about healthy dating and relationships.              

    Currently, I serve as a domestic violence consultant for the Diocese of Winona. I am working to help clergy and pastoral staff examine how they respond to incidences of domestic violence, specifically, within the Hispanic community. I will be conducting workshops to raise awareness on domestic violence and I will be starting a support group for women in order to test the proposed domestic violence prevention model that I developed in my doctoral work.

   My students are very interested and excited about my research! I talk about my research in the classroom and we have intense discussions on how to make effective culturally appropriate assessments and interventions among Hispanic clients. Students are interested in knowing more about the plight of the undocumented immigrants and the impact of domestic violence on their families. The most fascinating aspect of my research is that I am diving deeper into what I encountered in the field as a clinical social worker. At the heart of my research is the women’s story and lived experience. I honor their experience as I conduct my research and it is in their stories that I find the passion, motivation and drive to conduct research on this very important societal problem.

Catherine Marrs Fuchsel
Catherine Marrs Fuchsel