Mexican American Studies website
  • Location: EDCC 2.216B
  • Phone: 956.665.3212
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Mexican American Studies Faculty

The Mexican American Studies program is comprised of faculty from five different colleges. The Advisory Board is a group of faculty dedicated to the strengthening and overall success of Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas-Pan American. In early 2008, Dr. Stephanie Alvarez (Modern Languages and Literature) and Dr. Sonia Hernandez (History & Philosophy) began meeting to revise the curriculum for the Mexican American Heritage Program major and minor. Dr. Jennifer Mata (History & Philosophy) Edna Ochoa (Modern Languages and Literature) and Emmy Pérez (English) then joined this effort to revitalize this important area of study in the Fall of 2008; Dr. Marci McMahon (English) joined the Advisory Board in the spring of 2009. The Advisory Board submitted the newly revised interdisciplinary degree plan to the University Curriculum Committee and received approval in late Spring of 2009. This formally changed the program from Mexican American Heritage to Mexican American Studies, and revised the MAS minor. This group of faculty has also been successful in aligning the major to South Texas College’s Associate Degree in Mexican American Studies. The group has also been pro-active in compiling a list of all UTPA courses related to the Mexican American and Latina/o experience and plans to identify all faculty members with research and teaching expertise in this area in the hopes of creating faculty affiliates to MAS. The MAS Advisory Board has also approved a Graduate Certificate in Mexican American Studies.


Dr. Stephanie Alvarez, Founding Member & MAS Advisory Board Member

Mexican American Studies Advisor

Stephanie Alvarez, Assistant Professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, earned her PhD in Spanish from the University of Oklahoma. She is the founding director of the Mexican American Studies program (2009-2013) & Center for Mexican American Studies (2011-2013) at UTPA. She is the recipient of the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education Outstanding Latina/o Faculty Award (2011) and the University of Texas Board of Regent’s Outstanding Teaching Award (2009). She is the co-editor with William Luis of The AmeRícan Poet: Essays on the Work of Tato Laviera (2014). Her research intersects in the areas of Latin@ identity, language, literature, culture, education and empowerment and has appeared in various edited volumes and journals such as Hispania, Journal of Latinos and Education and CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, among others. Together with Tato Laviera, Edna Ochoa and José Martínez she founded Cosecha Voices, a program that provides migrant farmworker youth the opportunity to document and share their testimonios​


Dr. Francisco Guajardo, MAS Advisory Board Member



Francisco Guajardo is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Texas Pan American. He is from the border, having been born in Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas and raised in the rural community of Elsa, Texas. He is a graduate of Edcouch-Elsa High School, where he also worked as a teacher and administrator, and is a founding member of the Llano Grande Center for Research and Development. He is also a founding member of the Center for Bilingual Studies at UTPA, and a founder of the Community Learning Exchange, a national initiative that works to bring community together. His research agenda focuses on community leadership and community building.

Dr. Jessica Lavariega Monforti, MAS Advisory Board Member

Political Science

Jessica L. Lavariega Monforti is an associate professor of political science and senior faculty research associate at the Center for Survey Research at the University of Texas - Pan American. She specializes in public policy analysis, race/ethnicity and politics and survey research. While much of her research focuses on the differential impact of public policy according to race, gender, and ethnicity, she is specifically interested in the political incorporation and representation of Latinos, immigrants, and women. Her latest research examines how major forces such as technology, the military, and immigration policy impact and are impacted by Latino youth. Dr. Lavariega Monforti has conducted research on Latino voting patterns, Hispanic candidates, English language and immigration policy, gender difference within and across racial/ethnic groups, as well as Latin@s and use of social media in Latin@ politics. Recent publications include articles in Social Science Quarterly, the Social Science Journal, PS: Political Science, the Latino/a Research Review, and the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy. She also edited a book with William E. Nelson, Jr. entitled Black and Latino/a Politics: Issues in Political Development in the United States. She currently serves as the Assistant Dean, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences.

Marci R. McMahon, Director of MAS and Advisory Board Member                                                                                                              


Received her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California with affiliations in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity. She is an associate professor in the Department of English and Mexican American Studies Program. Her courses focus on Chicana/o and Latina/o literature, cultural studies, gender studies, and theater and performance. She is the author of Domestic Negotiations: Gender, Nation, and Self-Fashioning in US Mexicana and Chicana Literature and Art (Rutgers University Press’s series Latinidad: Transnational Cultures in the United States, 2013), which received the National Association for Chicana and Chicana Studies (NACCS) Tejas Non-Fiction Book Award in 2014. Her transdisciplinary research in Chicana/o and Latina/o studies appears in Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies; Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of MALCS; Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies; and the Journal of Equity & Excellence in Education. Her latest book manuscript, Listening to Latina/o Theater: Staging Sound in US Latina/o Theater and Performance, explores how Latina/o drama utilizes sound design and vocal bodies to engage audiences with recurring debates about nationhood, immigration, and gender. By putting the aural and sonic to the foreground of analysis in Latina/o theater and performance studies, the book intervenes in a scholarly emphasis on visual representation that has characterized US Latina/o theater studies.

Dr. Cathryn Josefina Merla-Watson, Visiting Assitant Professor of Mexican American Studies

Dr. Cathryn Josefina Merla-Watson holds a Ph.D. in American Studies with minor certificates in Feminist and Critical Sexuality Studies and Geography from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Dr. Merla-Watson co-edited W.E.B. Du Bois on Asia: Crossing the World Color Line (2005) and has published articles and chapters in ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, El Mundo Zurdo 3, and The Un/Making of Latino Citizenship: Culture, Politics, and Aesthetics (2014). She is currently co-curating a two-part dossier on Chicana/o-Latina/o Speculative Aesthetics for the journal Aztlán (forthcoming Fall 2015 and Spring 2016). Her research and teaching interests include Mexican American and Latina/o Literary and Cultural Studies; Cultural Geography; Chicana and Women of Color Feminisms; Queer of Color Critique; and Love Studies.

Dr. Edna Ochoa, Founding Member

Modern Languages

Dr. Edna Ochoa is an assistant professor in the department of Modern Languages and Literature. She is the 2009 College of Arts and Humanities recipient of the Provost Award for Latin American Studies. Her teaching and research interests include Chicana/o Literature, Creative Writing, and Spanish language journalism. She earned a bachelor of journalism from the Escuela “Carlos Septién García” in Mexico City and her Master’s and Ph.D in Spanish from the University of Houston. She is the author of poetry books: Respiración de raíces (Toluca, México: La tinta de alcatraz, 1993), Sombra para espejos (Toluca, México: H. Ayuntamiento de Toluca, 1989), Ruinas (México: Luzbel, 1987) (book of drama) and La cerca circular (México: SEI, 1986) (book of short stories). She has written numerous plays including “La Jacobina” Teatro para estudiantes de teatro (México: Árbol Editorial, 1996) and “La Boda de la Mujer Maravilla” Teatro Joven de México (México: Tierra Adentro, 1992). Her translations to Spanish include Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez (Arte Público Press, University of Houston, 2004) and How the Frog and His Friend Saved Humanity by Víctor Villaseñor (Arte Público Press, University of Houston, 2005). She is an active participant in Cosecha Voices and her plays have showcased at numerous venues including the College of Arts and Humanities yearly FESTIBA.

Dr. Emmy Pérez, Founding Member & MAS Advisory Board Member


Emmy Pérez, Assistant Professor of English/creative writing, is the author of a poetry collection, Solstice (Swan Scythe Press 2003). She holds degrees from Columbia University and the University of Southern California. Her poetry, poetics essay, and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Notre Dame Review, New York Quarterly, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Indiana Review, Crab Orchard Review, Story, Blue Mesa Review, The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press 2007), A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line (University of Iowa Press 2011) and other publications. She is a contributing editor for The Writer's Chronicle (AWP), Latino Poetry Review, and Texas Books in Review. A recipient of poetry fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, she also received the James D. Phelan Award from the San Francisco Foundation for her fiction writing. In addition to university teaching, she has taught creative writing in several adult and juvenile detention centers over the years. She and UTPA students have completed service learning projects at local detention centers and have produced poetry publications of original writings from the centers. She also initiated an annual celebration in honor of Gloria E. Anzaldúa on campus, beginning in 2008, and organized, with students, community members, and colleagues, “El Retorno: El Valle Celebra Nuestra Gloria” (in collaboration with UT San Antonio’s “El Mundo Zurdo: International Conference on the Work and Life of Gloria E. Anzaldúa”) held on the UTPA campus on the fifth anniversary of Anzaldúa’s passing in May 2009. She has also coordinated several readings, lectures, and presentations on campus featuring visiting Chican@ and Latin@ authors and scholars. A member of the Macondo Writers' Workshop in San Antonio, founded by Sandra Cisneros, for socially-engaged writers, she is also a CantoMundo poetry fellow. She also received the 2009 Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral writing award.

Mr. E.F. Ramirez, Lecturer of Mexican American Studies

Ramirez was born in San Antonio and fortunate enough to have attended 15 different schools in 10 different school districts. He moved often during his life but luckily he had roots here in the RGV. His Father is from San Juan and his mother from Harlingen, both attended Pan American University, luckily for him they met here and went on to marry soon after. He moved to the valley in 1995 and graduated from UTPA in 2000 with Bachelors in General Studies. He has worked at UTPA since 2001 in various capacities as staff and faculty. He has also taught in the Department of Criminal Justice, served with the University Retention and Advisement Program, and was liaison for the AVID for Higher Education program at UTPA. Most recently He taught with University College (previously the Office of Undergraduate Studies) and is happy to be the first full time faculty member of the Mexican American Studies Program at UTPA and UTRGV. He sees his function as a faculty member to be a guide for students, not just in their academics but in their life.


UT-Pan American has over 50 faculty from various colleges engaged in Mexican American, Latin@, and/or Latin American research. Some of these affiliates are:

Maritza de la Trinidad, History, MAS faculty affiliate

Alexander Stehn, Philosophy, MAS faculty affiliate

Amy Cummins, English, MAS faculty affiliate

Mariana Alessandri, Philosophy, MAS faculty affiliate

Jamie Starling, History, MAS faculty affiliate

Cynthia Paccacerqua, Philosophy, MAS faculty affiliate

Richard Phillips, Art, MAS faculty affiliate

Zulmaris Diaz, Billingual Education, MAS faculty affiliate

Servando Hinojosa, Anthropology, MAS faculty affiliate

Leila Hernandez, Art, MAS faculty affiliate

Robert Bradley, Art, MAS faculty affiliate