Paul Hockings Collection
Hockings is the editor of the journal Visual Anthropology. He has written and edited numerous articles and books on ethnographic film, the Badaga language, and longitudinal studies of demographic change. His books include Principles of Visual Anthropology, A Badaga-English Dictionary, and Encyclopedia of World Cultures: South Asia. Other short films of his on the Badagas and Todas of South India are in the Videotheque at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka.
Susan Stechnij was born in 1947 in Chicago, Illinois, to parents from large Polish American families. She and her younger sister grew up in Bucktown, and during her late teens the family moved to Logan Square.
Stechnij entered the University of Illinois at Chicago as a part of the first class to enter the newly constructed “circle campus” in the fall of 1965. After her freshman year, she and her best friend traveled to Mexico City and fell in love with the people and historic charm of this diverse urban setting. She enrolled at the University of Mexico’s school for foreigners and studied anthropology and Spanish. Upon returning to the University of Illinois at Chicago, she became a Spanish major.
After graduating from UIC, Susan worked with Cuban refugees for the State of Illinois in the Department of Public Aid. With the money she earned from this work, she spent a year and a half traveling throughout the Caribbean and South America. She studied Portuguese in Rio de Janiero and visited numerous locations in Brazil including the area surrounded by the Xingu River, a secluded region known for its rain forest and indigenous population.
Upon her return to Chicago, Susan entered the University of Illinois where she studied for a master’s degree in social and cultural anthropology. She was awarded a research assistantship in conjunction with the National Institute of Health to conduct applied anthropological research. The research offices were located at the Illinois State Psychiatric Institute on Roosevelt Road near the UIC campus, and the team frequently conducted surveys of community leaders and clergy in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods of Chicago. The community was in need of a health care clinic, and Stechnij helped to organize what would later become the South Lawndale Community Health Center. The health center was originally housed in a partially occupied building owned by the City of Chicago, and was staffed by volunteers from the community and Seventh Day Adventist doctors and nurses. The director of the center was Santiago Bolton, who is seen giving a speech at a Chicago School Board meeting in Stechnij’s documentary MI RAZA: PORTRAIT OF A FAMILY. The South Lawndale Community Health Center was later taken over by the Cook County Hospital and re-named for one of the Cook County doctors who worked at the center after this transition, Dr. Jorge Prieto. When the center was taken over by the county, the original volunteer staff was excluded from the new organization. The center is now called the Dr. Jorge Prieto Community Health Center and is located at 2424 South Pulaski Road in Chicago. During this period of time, Stechnij received a grant to make a documentary film about Mexican-American acculturation, MI RAZA: PORTRAIT OF A FAMILY (1972).
After completing her master’s degree at UIC, Stechnij was hired by the Children’s Home and Aid Society of Illinois to start a child abuse and neglect prevention center in the Hispanic community. The Aid Society staff was primarily composed of social workers, and Stechnij brought Spanish language skills, background in community organizing and connections in the community to the organization. The program grew quickly and received a large grant (most likely from the MacArthur Foundation) to purchase and renovate a building on Division Street in Chicago. Named the VIVA Child and Family Center, the program is still active and located in the building at 2516 West Division Street.
Stechnij worked as the coordinator of an extension program at North Park College from 1983 until one year after the program was taken over by Roosevelt University in 1990. Stechnij directed the Logan Square Extension Program which was located in a church rectory apartment building at the corner of West Wrightwood and North Kimball Streets. This program, one of three North Park College extension programs in the city of Chicago (the other two were located in the Little Village and Uptown neighborhoods) offered evening and weekend bilingual classes, and free child care, to adult Spanish-speaking students who worked during the day. Students in the program took intensive English language classes, as well as basic coursework (algebra, psychology, economics) taught by instructors who alternated between speaking in English and Spanish. Students spent the first two years of study for their bachelor’s degree in these classes, and then completed their last two years at the main campus. The extension programs supported the completion of bachelor’s degrees in psychology, business administration, and communication.
In 1991, Stechnij and her three young children moved to Palm Beach County, Florida. Stechnij began working for the Healthy Start Coalition in 1992 and established a program that paid for the medical care transportation costs for pregnant women and new mothers. She worked for the Healthy Start Coalition until 2006.
Stechnij currently owns and manages several historic properties in Palm Beach County. In coordination with Goodwill, the Salvation Army and the Lord’s Place, she assists in providing housing for the local homeless community. In 2001, Stechnij received the “Unsung Hero Award” for her work with the homeless. Stechnij also volunteers for the Mandel Public Library in West Palm Beach, Florida, providing programming and fundraising assistance.