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Graduate Scholars-in-Residence Program

The Graduate Scholars in Residence Program, established in 1998, is a program aimed at fostering a vibrant intellectual community among Chicano/Latino students at Stanford. It provides graduate students from various disciplines with an excellent venue to meet one another and exchange ideas.  The program is also designed to identify graduate student mentors for Stanford undergraduates.  Each year, El Centro Chicano y Latino provides six doctoral students with a stipend and office space for the entire academic year.  In exchange, the Graduate Scholars are expected to spend time in their office space, give one research presentation and take part in an event aimed at encouraging undergraduates to pursue graduate studies.  For more information, please contact Margaret Sena.

"El Centro was critical to my dissertation writing process. It provided the academic and moral support to think through my research and complete my dissertation while navigating the job market."

Maribel Santiago, Ph.D. 

Graduate Scholar-in-Residence Alumna

Assistant Professor, Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University


2018-2019 Graduate Scholars-in-Residence 

A.J. Alvero

Doctoral Candidate, Graduate School of Education 

I was born and raised in Salinas, CA. My dad is from Cuba and my mom comes from a line of Portuguese immigrants who eventually settled in the East Bay. I eventually transferred from community colleges in Monterey and Miami to the University of Miami, earning a degree in literature. Afterwards I taught high school English in Miami for three years and earned a M.A. in foreign language education (TESOL) from Florida International University. I became the first student in the program’s history to study how ELL-designated students in my classroom responded to automated writing feedback systems while revising their writing for my thesis project. These experiences, starting with my own in Salinas and culminating with my time as a teacher in Miami, motivated me to pursue a Ph.D. in order to help the communities that I knew and loved. 

I study the intersection between language, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and educational opportunities and outcomes.

As a mentor, I want to help people reach their goals and develop their ideas; the glory of success and accomplishment should always reside with the mentee. I also realize that as a Ph.D. student, there are certain things that might be easier for me to do than for an undergraduate or even a Masters student. I want to take advantage of my position to help break down barriers and obstacles for others.

The Graduate Scholar-in-Residence program is unique for its emphasis on community. There are many groups and communities on campus, but the Graduate Scholar-in-Residence program embeds doctoral students inside a highly active organization at El Centro as well as puts PhD students from other disciplines in close proximity.

The fact that El Centro is an actual place is important. El Centro facilitates thinking and discussion between students from all parts of Latin America, but without El Centro the place many of those conversations could not happen. El Centro's important to the Stanford landscape cannot be understated.


Karina Gutíerrez

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Theatre and Performance Studies

Ph.D. Minor in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (FGSS)

I am a first-generation Ph.D. student from Arvin, CA, a small rural farming community in central California. I have a B.A. degree in Theatre and Spanish Literature from the University of California, San Diego. Growing up, my parents prioritized the importance of education. As a first-generation college graduate and the first in my family to pursue a doctorate, I am incredibly passionate about extending accessibility to higher education to marginalized communities and non-traditional students. Moreover, as a woman of color, I understand that there are other unscripted barriers in the academy that must be observed and overcome by prospective students of color. 

My dissertation, tentatively titled “Social Protest After the ‘Movement:’ Aesthetics, Genre, and Survival Since 1980,” looks at how modern protests use the Internet to share their mission and political agenda. For example, some theatre companies based in Mexico City such as Hijas de la Violencia(Daughters of Violence) and Ni Una Muerta Mas(Not one more dead), use the internet to take their message about violence committed against Mexican women to a global audience. How has the Internet changed social protest theatre as a genre? And, how does this affect what we define as both protest and theatre? These questions will help me to better understand how political theatre has adapted in order to survive, and how these changes vary between the U.S. and Latin America. 

Since coming to Stanford, I’ve served as a teaching assistant, as a mentor, and as a program director, while also fulfilling my primary duties as a scholar and artist/practitioner. My primary aim is to provide an artistic space for marginalized communities.

El Centro Chicano y Latino continues to be my home base on campus. What sets this program apart is the distinct care and emphasis placed on the needs of our diverse community. Programming at the Center continues to prepare me for a career in academia and community service. My aim as a Graduate Scholar is to assist others on their educational journey in the same way I have been helped along the way. I firmly believe the we never walk through a threshold alone. We are inspired by those who have come before us and have a responsibility to hold the door open for those who succeed us. 


Kim Higuera

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology

I grew up in San Diego, California, right on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Essentially, I grew up coming and going across the border. My parents are from Sinaloa, Mexico, so I spent a lot of time there while I was growing up as well. I also traveled when I was in college, too, and during each stay I found myself deeply interested in the immigrant communities I met wherever I went. There were the Turkish immigrants I met in Berlin, South Asian and Latin American immigrants in Madrid, Nicaraguan immigrants in San Jose, Costa Rica. My travels, along with my own personal history with migration, solidified my interest in studying migration and migrants.

My research is very much concerned with people who are in-between: in-between countries, in-between families, in-between languages, etc. I study how national transitions and changes at home affect how immigrants adapt to the U.S. I am also interested in immigrant child translators and how being a child translator affects people long-term. 

At Stanford, the bulk of my mentorship work has focused on my collaboration with my undergraduate RAs. I trained them for the field, gave them feedback to sharpen their interviewing skills, and spent time with them not only working on the project but debriefing and chatting about what they wanted to do after Stanford. We have periodic reunions of sorts, and I thoroughly enjoy my time with them. They have a perspective that older people or graduate students don't always bring to the table. 

I became interested in the Graduate Scholar-in-Residence program at El Centro when I was invited to participate in a panel on graduate school. Participating in the panel made me feel socially awake again, and I became aware of how much I lacked a Latinx community at Stanford, and how much I could potentially offer, especially to undergraduate students. 


Courtney Peña

Doctoral Candidate, Graduate School of Education

Ph.D. Minor in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (FGSS)

I'm from Phoenix, Arizona, and started my undergraduate studies at Mesa Community College. Coming from a low-income background, I worked full-time and took night classes but I often felt lost in the system as I had little access to advising and mentorship. After four years of community college, I transferred to Arizona State University, where I majored in Spanish Literature and pursued a minor in Transborder Chicana/Chicano Latina/o Studies. At ASU, I found mentors who encouraged me to continue on to graduate school. I received my M.A. degree in Bilingual Education and later worked as a research specialist at ASU’s School of Transborder Studies.  

In 2013, I started my Ph.D. journey in the SHIPS/RILE Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Education where I study Educational Linguistics. I am a sociolinguist within the field of education and my work explores pedagogical alternatives that address inequality in American education systems. In general, I study how marginalization occurs in classrooms, and how critical pedagogical practices can disrupt such processes.

My life experiences have had a huge impact on me and are the root of my desire to be a critical scholar and mentor for underrepresented students. I am very enthusiastic about mentorship. If it weren’t for the mentorship I received at ASU, I wouldn’t be where I am today. As soon as I got to Stanford, I became involved in mentorship at El Centro. From 2014-2018, I coordinated the Frosh Scholars Program, which is a mentorship-based transition program for first year students. FSP connected me to a wonderful community of people who are also passionate about mentorship. In many ways, mentorship makes possible the seemingly impossible.

I am so honored and excited to be returning for a second year as a Graduate Scholar-In-Residence at El Centro. My favorite part of the residency program is connecting with comunidadthrough mentorship, friendships, and academics. I am so honored to be part of the excellence that Centro brings to Stanford.The supportive environment and accessible resources/programming have had a major impact on my sense of belonging here at Stanford. For me, and many other students, Centro is home—the food, the people, the sense of community—there’s no other place like it at Stanford.


Sean Peters

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Electrical Engineering 

I grew up in Yuma, AZ, a city right next to Arizona’s southwest corner bordering California and Mexico. My parents are both from San Antonio, TX, and my family heritage is Mexican. I did my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at Rice University where I focused on waves, optics, and signal processing. I am the first person in my family to earn a degree in engineering, the first to study abroad, and the first to go to graduate school to pursue a doctoral degree. 

My research focuses on answering the following question: “can we use ambient radio noise, such as the Sun, as a source to measure ice thickness?” In my work, I’ve tried to answer this question by working to develop a low-resource passive radar that measures ice sheet thickness by exploiting radio emissions from the Sun, instead of transmitting its own signal for echo detection.

Beyond academics and research, I enjoy spending my time mentoring undergraduate and pre-college students by encouraging them to follow their interests and pursue graduate study. I wanted to be a Graduate Scholar-in-Residence to continue my work as a mentor. I want to help undergraduates understand their options for research careers and how they can secure funding. I also wanted to give back to my community; whether the issues we discuss are academic, social, or personal, I want students to know that I am here to listen and can help in whatever way possible. 

One of the aspects of the Graduate Scholar-in-Residence program that I think is unique is the small size of the cohort, and the opportunity to work with a dedicated group of peers throughout the entire year who help El Centro promote a culture of respect and inclusion. 

I appreciate that El Centro has served as a home away from home, a break away from my department where the imposter syndrome can develop, and a safe space where I can feel comfortable working and helping others. I love attending all of the different events that El Centro hosts, such as writing workshops, Cafecito, panels, and talks with invited speakers, as they serve as a way to stay connected and learn in depth about the issues our community faces. 


Greses A. Pérez-Joehnk

Doctoral Candidate, Graduate School of Education 

My story is part of the greater American immigration story where immigrants achieve things and surrender others. Part of me grew up in the Dominican Republic. Another side of me grew up in New York. Since that time, I feel as though I am from here and there. 

My mom, who believed that my education was her gift to me, worked 16-hour shifts in Brooklyn to pay for my college. Thanks to her efforts, I attended the Santo Domingo Technological Institute (INTEC) where I earned a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering. Later, I pursued two Master’s degrees, one in Environmental Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM), and another in School Leadership from Southern Methodist University (SMU). Before coming to Stanford, I was an elementary bilingual teacher and a science teacher mentor at a North Texas Museum. Prior to starting my career in education, I oversaw engineering projects within the construction and environmental and water resources industry. These experiences, along with being a first-generation college student and the first in my family to seek an advanced degree, motivated me to pursue a Ph.D. 

My research interests lie at the intersection of diversity, language and access for underrepresented communities, especially in the context of engineering and science. 

At Stanford, I focus my efforts on mentoring students from under-represented communities in academia and the fields of science and engineering. Currently, I mentor students through three different programs: the Graduate School of Education Mentorship Program, the Frosh Scholars Program sponsored by El Centro, and the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences Mentorship Program. 

Becoming a Graduate Scholar-in-Residence is the way to “pay it forward.” I would like to think that I’m currently a doctoral student because of my past work. But I know that it’s also because of the contributions of all those who provided me with “wings” to help me fly further and faster. This fellowship offers the unique opportunity to be part of a like-minded cohort of scholars who want to contribute their expertise and experiences in favor of the community. At El Centro, I found a community of alumni, professors, staff, and students that make this space feel like coming home to mi familia


"El Centro provides a sense of support and belonging. It was comforting to have a place where others would understand my background and life experiences. I felt heard and understood at Stanford because of El Centro."

Jesus Madrid
Doctoral Candidate, Department of Neurosciences, Stanford School of Medicine


"I consider El Centro my home on campus and am grateful for the space, support, and community the center offers to graduate students."

Vanessa Seals
Doctoral Candidate, Department of English