The Latinx Social Science Working Group is all about building bridges and creating community. Rosario Ceballo, PhD, associate dean for the social sciences and professor of women’s and gender studies and psychology (LSA), and Deborah Rivas-Drake, PhD, professor of psychology (LSA) and professor of education (School of Education), saw the need to bring together faculty and postdoctoral fellows whose diversity scholarship in the social sciences focuses on Latinx youth and families for public impact. The group was initially formed with the support of a Think-Act Tank grant from U-M’s National Center for Institutional Diversity.
This group meets monthly — at selected venues before the pandemic, and now virtually. Members all hail from the social sciences, education, and social work. Their mission is to stimulate dialogue around issues in research, support faculty in conducting high-quality research, facilitate and develop new research collaborations, and build networks with colleagues at other institutions who will be invited to present scholarship. Topics range from immigration and migration to parenting and cultural values, and are identified over the course of the group's activities.
Being part of the working group provides an opportunity for scholars who might not otherwise have the chance to work collectively on scholarly pursuits to join forces and bring important topics to the table. It also amplifies the existing scholarly community affiliated with U-M’s Latina/o Studies Program.
What are the goals and priorities of the working group? First, they hope to produce a scholarly publication that represents the group’s work together, such as a book or a special issue in a journal. Tentatively entitled Growing Up Latino in the Land of Liberty, Ceballo shared that the group wants potential chapters to reflect “a resiliency and strength-based perspective to address the ways in which Latinx youth and families cope with challenges in our society today.” Second, organizing research discussions that feature diversity scholars whose work addresses pressing cross-disciplinary issues remains a high priority. Discussion themes have included topics such as Puerto Rican immigration and mental health challenges in Latinx communities. Third, they nurture the multi-generational aspect of their membership. Ceballo shares that “Having members that are at all faculty ranks and stages in their careers has been really wonderful for our discussions because we can talk, not just about research and scholarship, but also about our own position and experiences in the academy.” Lastly, the cultural backgrounds of each member generate additional inspiration and strength for the work they produce, individually and together.
Both Ceballo and Rivas-Drake identify as Latina scholars, and as such, their racial and ethnic identities both influence and benefit scholarship on the Latinx population. Rivas-Drake further elaborated, “I engage in the scholarship that I engage in because I think it is critical to bring high-quality developmental science, which is my field, not only about Latinx youth but about multiple marginalized populations. I just decided to build the community I wanted to have. It was my responsibility to do so. And I could because I have the resources and the capacity at U-M to do this for the next generation.”