UArizona Shares in $5M Grant to Support Latino Humanities Studies

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The University of Arizona will participate in a three-year, $5-million grant-funded project that unites 16 universities in a national initiative to support Latinx humanities studies.

The University of Illinois Chicago is the lead institution of the "Crossing Latinidades: Emerging Scholars and New Comparative Directions" project, which includes 16 Hispanic-Serving Institutions that have been designated top-tier universities with very high research activity. The grant is from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

"This award reflects the culmination of efforts over the past year to bring together the top research-oriented HSIs throughout the country. UArizona has been part of this national consortium from the beginning and helped form the ideas that moved the proposal forward. The depth of talent that we have to support this visionary work is incredibly valued," said Marla Franco, UArizona assistant vice provost for Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives.

The project centers on research and training initiatives that will expand opportunities for a growing population of Latinx students and support a national cohort of doctoral students in Latinx humanities studies. There are three main components: a summer institute for graduate students, research working groups, and a web portal that connects the institutions and students.

"The grant's major components provide an infrastructure for professional opportunities and collaborations that have the potential to redraw disciplinary boundaries, hybridize methodologies and produce knowledge in ways that center creativity and community at every stage of development," said Farid Matuk, associate professor of English.

The grant will involve students and faculty from multiple disciplines, especially those in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Humanities.

The yearly summer institute on Latinx studies methodologies and theories will include a mentorship program that aims to enhance scholars' comparative research skills, intellectual curiosity, creativity and critical thinking. Each university will send two pre-thesis or pre-dissertation proposal graduate students to the summer institute, and 96 students will benefit from the institute and from assigned mentors.

The working group initiative seeks to enrich the field of Latinx humanities studies with a new model of collaborative, comparative and cross-regional research that more accurately reflects the changing configurations of Latinx people in the United States. In the first and second years of the grant, 10 research working groups will be funded, each with senior and junior Latinx humanities scholars as well as six graduate students.

"The scholarly expertise across these 16 HSI universities is tremendous and we're excited to connect emerging scholars with a nationwide group of mentors as they advance in their research and careers. This will also create new opportunities to focus interdisciplinary research efforts on issues critical to growing Latinx communities across the country," said Sonia Colina, Regents Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

In the project's initial launch, supported in 2020 by a $150,000 Mellon Foundation grant, six graduate students at UArizona were selected as Creative Writing Fellows. They participated in a multi-day program and workshops to learn creative teaching approaches centered on anti-racist practices, and had the opportunity to network with professional writers and peers from other HSI institutions.

"As a Mellon Crossing Latinidades Creative Writing Fellow, I learned more about how educators and practitioners enact anti-racist pedagogical strategies in a variety of teaching contexts such as K-12 and higher education writing courses," said Joanna E. Sanchez-Avila, a doctoral candidate in rhetoric, composition and the teaching of English. 

Sanchez-Avila said the workshops also inspired her to continue working on a memoir focusing on Honduran-American identity in the American West and Southwest. 

"I hope that my voice can add a thread to the developing fabric of Central American experiences making its way to mainstream audiences," Sanchez-Avila said. "I am grateful for these experiences, and I hope many others can benefit from such initiatives that support, yet complicate, ideas about Latinidades."

The consortium's institutional partners are the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York; University of Arizona; University of California, Irvine; University of California, Riverside; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of California, Santa Cruz; University of Central Florida; Florida International University; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; University of New Mexico; University of Houston; University of North Texas; University of Texas, Arlington; University of Texas, El Paso; and Texas Tech University.

UArizona faculty involved in the project planning include:

  • Susan Briante, Professor and Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing
  • Sonia Colina, Regents Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese
  • Javier Duran, Director of the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry and Professor in the Center for Latin American Studies
  • Lillian Gorman, Assistant Professor in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese
  • Joela Jacobs, Assistant Professor in the Department of German Studies
  • Feng-Hsi Liu, Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies
  • Judy Marquez Kiyama, Associate Vice Provost of Faculty Development
  • Farid Matuk, Associate Professor in the Department of English
  • Verónica Reyes-Escudero, Katheryne B. Willock Head of Special Collections
  • Frans Tax, Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Marcela Vásquez-León, Director of the Center for Latin American Studies and Associate Professor of Anthropology
  • Ada Wilkinson-Lee, Associate Professor in the Department of Mexican American Studies