EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The University of Texas at El Paso has joined the nation’s top-tier Hispanic-Serving Institutions in a new initiative to advance teaching, research and cultural programming in the area of Latino humanities studies.

Officials say this is funded by a three-year, $5 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the project “Crossing Latinidades: Emerging Scholars and New Comparative Directions,” also aims to prepare rising Latino researchers and scholars for faculty positions in humanities studies.

UTEP officials said the initiative is the product of a consortium based at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) which includes all 16 Hispanic-Serving Institutions, or HSIs, in the country that have the R1 designation — top tier doctoral universities with very high research activity — in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

Cristina Morales, a Ph.D., professor of sociology and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, is on the advisory council of “Crossing Latinidades” and is currently coordinating the implementation of this grant.

UTEP is committed to making a positive impact on the well-being of the community we serve…This grant will allow us to do that by enhancing our participation in the development of a new generation of researchers and scholars addressing critical research questions on Latina/o studies.”

Cristina Morales, Ph.D., professor of sociology and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts

With opportunities for funding, training and mentorship, the research and training component of the Crossing Latinidades initiative will benefit Hispanic pre-dissertation Ph.D. students in the humanities and humanities-like social sciences as they advance through the pathway to the professoriate and successful careers in Latino humanities studies.

At UTEP, Jeffrey Shepherd, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of History, and Brian Yothers, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of English, are actively recruiting students in their programs to apply for fellowships funded by the grant from the Mellon Foundation. The College of Liberal Arts is developing mechanisms to help students be competitive for this opportunity and has established an internal committee to select UTEP nominees.

Our students and faculty members are uniquely well-positioned to make an important contribution to this effort. Because of its location along the U.S.-Mexico border and its demographics, our campus is a living laboratory where with every graduating class, we learn more about what it takes to successfully support students in their pursuit of advanced degrees. I am confident that our experience will be of great value to our peers in this initiative.

Dennis Bixler-Marquez, Ph.D., director of the Chicano Studies program

A second part of the program is a working group that seeks to impact the field of Latino humanities studies with a new model of collaborative, comparative and cross-regional research to more accurately reflect the changing configurations of Latinos in the United States.

Plans also include the creation of a web portal that will network all faculty conducting research in Latino studies at the consortium’s universities.

The consortium focuses its efforts on increasing the number of Latino doctoral students pursuing terminal degrees and advancing to academic positions.

Along with UTEP and UIC, the institutional partners in the consortium 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; Florida International University; University of Central Florida; University of New Mexico; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; University of North Texas; Texas Tech University; University of Houston and the University of Texas at Arlington.

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