Graduate Students

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Frank Pancho Aviles

Ph.D. Student

Photo: Frank Pancho Aviles
My name is Frank Pancho Aviles, son of Fructuoso Aviles and Maria Aviles (Reyes).

I grew up working in the fields picking grapes, oranges, lemons, olives, cucumbers, pecans, walnuts, and chopping weeds alongside my parents, five sisters and three brothers, and I'm a first-generation college student.

Over the years, I've served as a counselor, an educator, an advocate, and a writer in the migrant education, health education, mental health, LGBTQ2, and library professions, providing support to Mexican, Native American, African American, and underserved communities in general.

My research incorporates both my Chicanx and Lipan Apache identities. The current focus of my research is Indigenous and Chicanx masculinities.

Another one of my interests is Native American and Mexican genealogical research. I devote time to finding hidden documents of Indigenous ancestors in Mexican Church records.

My educational background includes a BA in Mathematics with a minor in La Raza Studies, an MA in Information Resources and Library Sciences, and a PhD in Communication and Information.

Anissa Baca

M.A. Student

Photo: Anissa Baca

Anissa is a native New Mexican, raised in the small ranching community of Ojo Caliente, where she was given compelling examples of hard work.

She received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications, with a minor in Media Arts, at the University of New Mexico. Soon after, she relocated to Prague, Czech Republic, where she worked, lived and traveled for five years. 

Her wondrous spirit found its way back home, where she rediscovered her upbringing, incredible culture and complicated history, and wanted to have a part in the preservation of her community’s way of life. 

She sought out the Chicana and Chicano Studies MA program because it closely aligned with her personal goals. She is honored to have a part in the trailblazing program, for herself, and for her people.

Damon Carbajal

M.A. Student

Photo: Damon Carbajal

Damon R. Carbajal is an gay, queer Chicanx educator, advocate, artist, and researcher at the University of New Mexico where he is a member of the inaugural M.A. Chicana/o Studies cohort.

Mr. Carbajal graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.A. in Secondary Education with a concentration in communicative arts and a minor in theatre in May 2019.

He currently sits on the New Mexico Educational Theatre Association Board as is the Co-Chair and Policy Coordinator for GLSEN Albuquerque where he works on supporting theatre arts and creating equity for LGBTQ+ students.

Mr. Carbajal is an alumni of the El Puente Research Fellowship and the Research Institute for Scholars of Equity (RISE) Fellowship.

His research focuses on creating and maintaining equity for Latinx and LGBTQ+ students, as well as students who live at the intersection of being Latinx and LGBTQ+.

Valerie Chavez

M.A. Student

Photo: Valerie Chavez

Valerie Chavez was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her family lineage is firmly planted in New Mexico and is a key influence in her academic interests.

Valerie graduated from UNM with her B.A. in Intercultural Communication and a minor in Chicana/o studies. After graduating, Valerie spent two years working within the development staff for a local non-profit that strives to end homelessness in New Mexico.

She is now part of the administrative team as well as a direct contact for organizations, students, faculty and staff with interest in the PNMGC program. PNMGC is a peer mentoring program for graduate students of color. The program’s main focus is the peer-to-peer mentoring but also includes leadership and professional development, community and cultural engagement as well as academic workshops. 

Valerie’s proposed research is rooted in her Nueva Mexicana identity. While studying, she plans on analyzing Nueva Mexicana Chola self-expression and its relation to Chicana feminism. Her focus will be to destruct and understand the importance of space/place within Chicana feminist identity.

Jerome Chávez

M.A. Student

Photo: Jerome Chávez
Jerome Chávez was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His family has had roots in the state for many generations.  

He became a community activist at an early age. In high school he was a member of La Raza Unida Youth Committee, and participated in a solidarity march against Proposition 187 in California.

Jerome graduated from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 2006, earning Bachelors of Arts degrees in Political Science and American Studies. He moved to Denver, Colorado afterwards.

In Denver, Jerome became involved in the Chicano/Mexicano community there, and continued doing work for social justice. He helped organize several events against war, against police brutality, and for immigrant rights and for international solidarity. He helped organize the Transform Columbus Day march in 2007 and the Recreate 68 counter-convention against the Democratic National Convention in 2008. In 2014, the 40th anniversary of the deaths of Los Seis de Boulder Chicano activists, he assisted in the Symbols of Resistance commemoration for Chicano Movement martyrs from Colorado. 

Considering himself an organic intellectual, he conducted much independent research on Chicano history and did many community presentations on this topic. In his academic work he hopes to bring up and give a thorough analysis of the history and social movements of the Chicano people that are often overlooked.

Jerome moved back to Albuquerque, where he lives with his black cat, and trains in kenpo karate.

Luis Esparza

Ph.D. Student

Photo: Luis Esparza

My name is Luis Oswaldo Esparza. I am originally from Tototlán, Jalisco, Mexico, but raised in the Inland Empire region of California. I identify as Queer, Joto, Xicano, and most importantly, a social justice warrior. I obtained an associate degree from San Bernardino Valley College in 2014. I then transferred to California State University, San Bernardino where I graduated with a BA in Media Studies and an MA in Communication Studies. Now, I am both happy and honored to be part of the UNM Chicana and Chicano Studies PhD program.

My experiences as a queer person of color have ultimately shaped the direction of my research. Much of my research is centered around de-colonial theories and methodologies. That is, de-centralizing European ways of knowing as 'universal knowledge' and centering subaltern and indigenous epistemologies. I also focus on rural queerness in los ranchos y los pueblos, Queer Indigenous studies, and Queer subversive complicity.

As a Graduate Teaching Assistant, my pedagogy style has also been greatly influenced by de-colonial thinkers like Paulo Freire, Frantz Fanon, Gloria Anzaldúa, Bell Hooks, and Enrique Dussel, and Ramón Grosfoguel.  With my research, activist work, and methods of teaching, I seek to humanize and empower myself, my students, and our community in order to liberate and transform our world. I hope to one day see a world free of eurocentrism, racism, hierarchization, homophobia, transphobia, machismo, patriarchy, and any other kind of system of oppression. Un mundo Trans-moderno (Dussel, 1993). Un mundo sin fronteras!

Corky Frausto

Ph.D. Student

Photo: Corky Frausto

I am Robert (Corky) Frausto. I was born and raised in South Texas and participated in my first Chicano Rights protest in Del Rio in 1969. I have a BA in Psychology (UTSA) and an MA in Special Education (UNM). I moved to Albuquerque 30 years ago. I teach Chicano Studies and Chicano Literature at Highland High School in Albuquerque. I also sponsor MEChA at Highland. 


The Chicano Studies Program at Highland is unique in that it is intended as intervention classes for struggling and at risk students. My research is focused on curriculum development for secondary education ethnic studies classes and on the development of the literary canon in Chicano Literature. 


I live in Albuquerque's South Valley with 2 dogs and 3 cats. I am an artist and host an arts, crafts and music festival at my home every October. Everyone is welcome.

Esther García

M.A. Student

Photo: Esther García

My name is Esther García and I am a daughter of New Mexico.

I received my Bachelor of Arts degrees in Chicana and Chicano Studies and Sociology in the Fall of 2018 from the University of New Mexico.

In my academic work, I emphasize the value of preserving oral histories and have been using writing, photography, and short films to help document local culture and traditions. 

In my quest to find a way to express myself through language, I have rediscovered my lost love of poetry. My poetry comes from mi corazón, my life-experiences, and the community where I feel nurtured and safe. Writing poetry has reminded me that I am a woman who is strong and empowered, una mujer sin vergüenza.

Gustavo García

Ph.D. Student

Photo: Gustavo García

Gustavo García is a first generation Xicano Zapotec that was born and raised in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

His family is from the Central Valley of Oaxaca from a community named San Baltazar Chichicapam.

He first started his educational journey at Santa Monica Community College where he received an AA in Social and Behavior Science.

After four years of full-time school and work, he transferred to the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and graduated with BAs in Chicanx and American Indian Studies. Spring of 2019, he received his MA in American Studies at the University of New Mexico.  

Now as a PhD student in the department of Chicana/o Studies, his research interests engages with the intersections of Chicanx and Indigenous Studies to examine questions around coloniality/decolonization, Indigenous migration, Zapotec Studies, and Indigenous social movements.

In addition, he participates in various undergraduate/graduate student organizations, Danza Azteca and Son Jarocho.

Jorge García

Ph.D. Student

Photo: Jorge García

Baccalaureate degree in Sociology, Master of Arts in Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies & Master of Business Administration 

I was born and raised in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. 

I grew up Chicago where I obtained an AS degree in mathematics with an emphasis in philosophy. 

In 1999, I obtained an undergraduate degree in sociology with an emphasis in theory, history, and power structures. 

In 2004 I obtained a master’s degree in Language Literacy and Sociocultural education with an emphasis on transnational networks.

In 2015 I obtained an MBA from UNM with a focus on international education. 

I also spent 3 semesters in Regional Planning where I studied community development and planning.  This experience led me to co-found La Plazita Institute, a community space for gang prevention, community meetings, and youth programs. 

From 2000 to 2010, I worked and managed the Iberoamerican Science Technology and Education Consortium (ISTEC), a center for network building with an emphasis on research in microelectronics. 

I am the founder and Advisor to the Board of Directors of the Center for Social Sustainable Systems (CESOSS) a non-for-profit community-based research and learning center that is serving our local community of Atrisco (South Valley).

Much of the work I do, both at the university and community level, is being done under three distinct theoretical frameworks: complex systems, critical consciousness, and network development. 

I have developed the Quadruple Helix (4H), which is a social paradigm to facilitate communication and strategic alliances between industry, goverment, academia, and multinational organizations to support the cultural, political, social, and economic develoment of local communities. 

I am deeply involved in my culture.  I have focused my studies, and currently use, Mesoamerican calendars, Mexican thought and symbolism.

My main goal at El Centro de la Raza is to empower underprivileged students and focus on issues related to identity, intercultural studies, and social entrepreneurship.

Howard Griego

M.A. Student

Photo: Howard Griego
Howard Griego is a non-traditional student and native New Mexican. 
He received a Bachelor of Arts in Chicana/o Studies and a minor in Communication & Journalism from the University of New Mexico in the Spring of 2020. 
On his journey, Howard has rediscovered himself and found his identity in the Chicanx culture. His passion for learning and having the opportunity to be a part of his community has changed his life profoundly.
Returning to academia after an extensive absence has helped him to realize that his cultural background and the people within are important to him and that his life experiences have value to his community and those in and around it.  His academic research interests includes the loss of language in New Mexico and Chicanx Muralism.

Diahndra Grill

M.A. Student

Photo: Diahndra Grill

Diahndra Grill is a multimedia artist, educator, and feminista.

She is the co-founder of JustWrite (, a non-profit organization focused in the education sector and in collaboration with those incarcerated and in transition, engaging visual and literary arts as catalysts for self-discovery, healing, cultural and self preservation, and community building.

Diahndra is the Program Manager for the UNM Film & Digital Arts Department. She also serves on the SAFE House Board of Directors, an organization that shelters and empowers survivors of intimate partner domestic violence and works to improve the way New Mexico responds to violence.

Diahndra’s art reflects the personal/political experience while engaging the power of interwoven relationships and storytelling to dismantle borders and to sustain and reimagine identity, culture, and purpose.

Lucy Honorato

M.A. Student

Photo: Lucy Honorato

Lucy Honorato was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She is married and the mother of three kids.

She started her educational path at Los Angeles City College where she earned her first certificate in Early Childhood Development.

In 2013, she moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico where she began to attend Central New Mexico Community College. From there she graduated with Associate of Arts degrees in Sociology and Liberal Arts and an Associate degree of Applied Science in Integrated Studies. She then transferred to the University of New Mexico where she joined the Chicano/a Studies department and earned her B.A in Chicana/o Studies with a minor in Integrative Studies.

Lucy’s research interest include Women’s Reproduction Rights, Early Childhood Development, and Education among communities of color.

Lucy has experience working in Early Childhood. She has worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Lawndale Unified School District in California. She has also worked in private preschool settings. In New Mexico Lucy worked for CNM Job Connections as a data analyst and The CNM Chronicle newspaper as a senior layout designer. Currently she is a G.A for the department of Chicana/o Studies at UNM and she is excited to start this journey.

Jewell Medina

Ph.D. Student

Photo: Jewell Medina

My name is Jewell Martha Medina.

I am a social justice Chicana scholar.

My research interests include art as it relates to social movements with an emphasis on history and giving voice to women’s stories. 

I have a permanent collection of my protest art at the Arizona State University Chicano archives.

My masters thesis is entitled “Women Who Wake With The Roosters And Other Xicana Sacred Spaces: Our Art Is Our Weapon”.

Celina Peña

M.A. Student

Photo: Celina Peña

Celina Peña is a transfer student from Los Angeles, California.

Celina completed her B.A. in American Studies & Chicanx Studies at the University of New Mexico.

While studying in Califas, Celina served on many boards to look at Equity & Inclusion issues within her Community College district and through her close collaborations at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Celina has done advocacy work for prison education and abolition, Title XI advocacy for Parenting students, and has spoken and coordinated many panels on diversity, safety for students of color in college, and many other topics.

Celina’s thesis in Chicano Studies

Celina is examining the roles of women, specifically mothers in Chicanx & Mexican folklore stories.

When Celina is not working on her academics, you can find her and her daughter Serenity eating ice cream on their balcony, watching a movie or exploring the Bosque.

When she is finished with her master’s here in UNM, Celina plans to continue her education and pursue a PhD, and eventually establish a career as a professor or working with Equity & Inclusion issues back in Los Angeles.

Patricia Roybal Caballero

Ph.D. Student

Photo: Patricia Roybal Caballero
  • New Mexico State Representative first elected 2012, re-elected 2014, 2016, and most recently in 2018
  • Immediate Past New Mexico House Democratic Caucus Chair and immediate past National Treasurer of LULAC (National League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest Latino Civil Rights Organization, founded in 1929)
  • Native New Mexican and tribal member of Piro Manso Tiwa Tribe, Pueblo of San Juan de Guadalupe, in Las Cruces.
  • Married to R. Carlos Caballero, New Mexico Public Education Commissioner, District 1
  • Mother of two adult sons, Yusef (television producer) and Celestino (Entrepreneur), daughter-in-law, Liliana 
  • Grandmother of grandsons, Yusef II and Nasir Phillipe

Keith Sánchez

M.A. Student

Photo: Keith Sánchez

Keith Sánchez is originally from Belen, New Mexico, but due to his Father’s work with the University of New Mexico’s LAPE (Latin American Programs in Education), he spent the latter part of his youth in the midst of armed rebellion and civil war in El Salvador, Centro America.  

Witnessing stark injustice, political violence, and unfathomable economic disparity, Keith was naturally propelled towards a life in education and the arts with a mission to, as Paulo Friere stated,  “teach students to think democratically and to continually question and make meaning from, and critically view, everything they learn.” 

He is presently a Chicana/o Studies, English/Language Arts, and Music Instructor at RFK Charter High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

His eighteen years of experience as an educator include working in the Albuquerque NM, Oakland and Long Beach CA, school systems in the arenas of Bilingual education, Special education, Music, and English Language Arts. Keith earned a BA in Secondary Education and endorsements in Bilingual Education, and Communicative Arts.  

He is also presently the Founder, Director, and Chief Instructor of a non-profit community music program entitled the New Mexico Academy of Rock and Blues (NMARB). 

As a grassroots arts program, NMARB focuses on providing scholarships for students with limited access to Arts Programs in the community due to socioeconomic factors. 

Keith is also a career musician who has traveled the world as a performing artist. He was the lead singer, songwriter, lyricist and guitarist for underground political sensation Stoic Frame, boasting a #1 single on R&R’s national “rock en español” charts, with music featured on major network television such as MTV Latino, The Shield, Fuse Network and BET.

Through this unique lens of educational and applied community-based experiences, Keith has developed an Arts and Cultural Curriculum that forms the crux of his Chicana/o Studies Program in the heart of the historic South Valley Barrio in Albuquerque, Nuevo Mexico. 

Keith will be pursuing an MA in Chicana/Chicano Studies at the University of New Mexico.

Natalia Toscano

Ph.D. Student

Photo: Natalia Toscano

Natalia M. Toscano was born and raised in Oakland, CA. She attended Santa Monica College and transferred to the University of California Los Angeles, where she received her Bachelors in Chicana/o Studies and American Indian Studies. Having received her Master’s in American Studies, Natalia is now a Ph.D. student in the inaugural cohort of Chicana/o Studies at the University of New Mexico.

 Currently her research centers the exploration of Chicana/o/x cultural production and the entanglements of nationalist ideologies and discourse amongst Mexican, Chicanx, and Latinx communities.

 A firm believer in building community on campus, Natalia works with several student initiatives on campus including El Puente an undergraduate research program and the student organization Quetzalkuetlachtli.

Chantel Trujillo

M.A. Student

Photo: Chantel Trujillo

Chantel Trujillo was raised along the acequias of the Rio Grande in Tomé, New Mexico. She grew up understanding the importance of cultural expression and preservation and is an advocate for ethnic studies programs, beginning in early childhood. She believes that the lack of access to ethnic studies is a form of genocide and plans to hold schools accountable when they are not answering to the demand for ethnic studies.

Her heart is completely invested in social justice work. Her research interests include issues of social justice (locally and internationally), culturally relavant models and pedagogies, and land/water sustainability initiatives in New Mexico.

Chantel is an organizer, a mentor, and an educator in the community, and she is thrilled and honored to have been accepted as part of the Inaugural M.A. Cohort in Chicana and Chicano Studies at The University of New Mexico.

Tatyana Trujillo

M.A. Student

Photo: Tatyana Trujillo

Tatyana Trujillo is an activist, artist, poet and social advocate for her community.

She received a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies with a minor in Pre-Law at Fort Lewis College in Durango Colorado

She is a native New Mexican, born and raised in Albuquerque.

Since she was a young girl she was heavily involved with social justice and advocacy work.

She brought that into her adult life and now that is what she centers her studies around.

Currently she is invested in dedicating her time and education into food justice and working with migrant workers.

Moving forward with my education, I want to make a change especially for those who do not have the same opportunity.

Pico Villa

M.A. Student

Photo: Pico Villa

Pico Villa (They/Them) is a Non-Binary Chicanx originally from the lower valley community of El Paso, Texas. 

Politically identifying as a Queer Anarchist, I have found my passion in organizing within the Queer and/or Trans Community of Albuquerque and El Paso. I am also a Grad student employee at the UNM LGBTQ+ Resource Center where I have been leading a Queer and/or Trans student group for People of Color for the last 3+ years. 

My research interests include archiving the Queer/Trans Chicanx history of Albuquerque, NM and Queer Chicanx pop culture.

I dedicate this educational opportunity to all the Queer and Trans ancestors who have been denied access into the academy due to their status and the discriminatory lack of access to proper resources. They are the reason I am able to be present within this space today. May their legacy and words live strong through my work.