María hails from Mexico City, Mexico, and is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Sociology Department. Growing up, she saw massive social stratification in her beloved hometown and wanted to help eliminate the inequality. After majoring in Political Science at El Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, her interest in education reform blossomed and guided her to her current research.
María’s research focuses on the level of assimilation of Mexican-American immigrant families who move back to Mexico. She is analyzing the enrollment rates of the children in these families as a means of measuring academic engagement and assimilation into Mexican culture. Combining her analysis with the factors causing these families to move, María wants to see if these children are doing well in a country away from their native home.
Aside from being a brilliant researcher, María has been an engaged and approachable teaching assistant for three years. María’s humility is easily visible when she speaks about the undergraduate students, peers, and staff members with whom she has collaborated. Currently, she is a teaching assistant for LSP 2010 “Latinos in the U.S.” under Professor Hector Velez for her second semester. She recalled her first time in the class as an “eye-opening experience” as a Latina not from the US. “The dynamic of the class is amazing. When you walk into the class you sometimes hear English, but sometimes Spanish too and with different accents…that creates a warm feeling.”
María has experienced her most profound moment at Cornell through exposure to the undergraduate students. In 2014, 43 Mexican students attending a teacher’s college called Ayotzinapa went missing while traveling on buses to a commemoration of the lives lost in a massacre that occurred decades prior. The tragedy catalyzed mobilization in the Latino graduate student community at Cornell to figure out what to do about the situation. By the time they contacted MECHA, an undergraduate Mexican and Mexican-American group on campus, they found that the undergraduate students already had events planned to spread awareness and push for answers. “I was shocked at how quickly they responded to the situation while it took us so long. It was incredible seeing the students be so brave and fierce.”
Despite the culture shock as a result of moving thousands of miles away from home, María’s enthusiasm for advocacy never faltered in an unfamiliar environment. María looks forward to collaborating with community partners within and outside of the Cornell community. She plans to work with the Tompkins County Latino Civic Association and get involved with social advocacy groups after Cornell. Once her PhD is completed, María wants to promote education reform policy throughout the US and Mexico.
Thousands of miles away from Mexico City, María has found a home at Cornell. Students’ heartwarming experiences push her to work hard and to always think back on her people. “Sometimes you talk to certain kids and you hear what they had to do and what their families had to go through for them to get here…and I am constantly and forever amazed at the Latino student community at Cornell.”