Emory hires three Latinx studies scholars to strengthen interdisciplinary scholarship

By April Hunt | Emory Report | Sept. 4, 2019

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Emory has hired three top scholars in Latinx studies (left to right): Rocío Zambrana, acting associate professor of philosophy; Bernard L. Fraga, acting associate professor of political science; and Nicole Guidotti-Hernández, acting professor of English.

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Emory has hired three eminent scholars in Latinx studies, highlighting the university’s commitment to the study of race and ethnicity across the humanities and social sciences. The new faculty members will join Emory College of Arts and Sciences, where they—along with existing faculty members in related fields of studies—will help establish and advance Emory’s academic eminence in this interdisciplinary field.

“As a leading research university, Emory is proud to invest in Latinx studies by bringing these accomplished scholars to our university,” says Dwight A. McBride, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “This recruiting effort exemplifies our commitment to establishing Emory as an exciting center of knowledge creation and dissemination in the important field of Latinx studies.”

Rocío Zambrana, acting associate professor of philosophy, begins at Emory this fall with an upper-level undergraduate class on Latin American and Caribbean feminism, which focuses on the intersections of thought that examine race, power, gender and class. 

Bernard L. Fraga, an acting associate professor of political science and well-known public scholar on American elections and racial/ethnic politics, and Nicole Guidotti-Hernández, an acting professor of English and founding chair of the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, arrive next June.

All three scholars will join Emory as senior faculty members. As leaders in their respective disciplines, Zambrana, Fraga and Guidotti-Hernández will enhance their departments by bringing scholarly inquiry and new courses on Latinx communities, cultures, experiences and identities, and essential mentorship for students at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

“This is an outstanding cohort of leaders in the growing interdisciplinary field of Latinx studies, and we eagerly anticipate their contributions and collaborations within their disciplines and across the humanities and social sciences,” says Carla Freeman, senior associate dean for faculty in Emory College, who led the recruitment and hiring process.

Student and faculty interest helped draw scholars to Emory

The ambitious year-long recruitment process was based on Emory College’s successful 2017 “cluster hire” in the natural sciences. Applicants for the Latinx studies faculty positions were asked to show not only exceptional research and teaching portfolios, but also to demonstrate that they have a proven record of mentoring a diverse student body, including first-generation and underrepresented minority students.

Such cluster hiring is labor-intensive: More than 50 faculty members participated in department-level search committees, attending talks and meetings across many different fields.

“Casting the search so broadly allowed us to attract extraordinary candidates, enhancing our academic excellence and faculty diversity in this important scholarly area,” Freeman says.

Eleven departments were involved in the most recent recruitment efforts, having previously shared their intent to make Latinx studies a priority for hiring. Students have advocated for more Latinx courses and programs, a factor in drawing such leaders in the field to Emory.

“I very much welcome students who are eager for information that can be examined in different ways, because they can transform how we read any text,” says Zambrana, who comes to Emory from the University of Oregon. She recently completed her second book, “Colonial Debts: The Case of Puerto Rico,” while serving as co-editor of a journal on feminist philosophy.

“It’s a very important and exciting time to question our assumptions and shake our ideas down to their core, because that discovery is by necessity how we move knowledge further,” she adds.

The arrival of these new faculty members also will enhance Emory’s distinction in the study of race and the African American experience by expanding the capacity for interdisciplinary research and teaching. For instance, Fraga welcomes the chance to collaborate with faculty in African American studies, political science, quantitative theory and methods, and sociology in his work on the 2020 election.

“This is an exciting opportunity to join a community that studies race and ethnicity to gain a deeper understanding of our world and the diverse perspectives, attitudes and behaviors in it,” says Fraga, previously an associate professor at Indiana University, who detailed his research on racial and ethnic differences in voter turnout in his book, “The Turnout Gap.”

Having started a similar department focused on Latinx studies at the University of Texas, Guidotti-Hernández embraces an ethos of collaboration that will strengthen Emory’s new program.

She is particularly excited about working with students and is already developing a two-part survey of Latinx literature for next year that will take a long historical view of storytelling traditions from the War of 1898 to present day.

As founder of her previous campus chapter of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, Guidotti-Hernández plans to continue her mentorships of students at Emory and direct students’ honors theses.

“I’m always interested in developing our next generation of scholars and thinkers,” Guidotti-Hernández says. “I was a first-generation college student, and I believe it is important to pay it forward. Emory’s intellectual freedom and the students’ intellectual capacity is an ideal set of conditions for us to rise to the top very quickly.”