Fulbright College’s Yajaira Padilla Honored as a Minority Access National Role Model
Yajaira Padilla, director of the Latin American and Latino Studies program and associate professor in the Department of English in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, has been named a Minority Access National Role Model.
Minority Access Inc. honors inspiring students, faculty, alumni, innovators and diverse institutions as role models to expand the pool of minority scientists, researchers and professionals in fields underrepresented by minorities.
Padilla was recommended by English professor Robin Roberts, who noted that Padilla is an inspiring leader at the U of A for the recruitment, encouragement and retention of both undergraduate and graduate minority students.
“Dr. Padilla has been a leader in advocating for diversity and inclusion,” Roberts said in her nomination letter. “She has prioritized programs and lectures focused on recruiting and retaining students. She has worked with high schools and other colleges in Arkansas to promote college readiness and retention, directing resources to these important efforts.”
Roberts said that Padilla also works closely with U of A’s La Oficina Latina, with the university’s Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education, and that she recently spearheaded the founding of a Latinx graduate student organization.
Padilla, along with LALS faculty, has also lobbied for and worked to develop a set of mini grants to help LALS students with the cost of study abroad programs as well graduate students doing research on Latin American or Latinx studies. Similarly, she has supported efforts initiated by LALS faculty to apply for a grant from the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock for mentoring DACA students.
Roberts said that Padilla also took the lead on developing the Department of English’s first diversity plan, which built on work she completed as a member of the department’s undergraduate curriculum committee.
As a result, Roberts said, the Department of English also now has a new curriculum “directly related to diversity and inclusion not only in terms of under-represented groups, but also in approaches to teaching and re-thinking what the study of English means.”
“Dr. Padilla’s impact on the campus has been considerable,” Roberts said. “She is a leader who has truly made a difference at the University of Arkansas.”
Padilla’s research centers on Central American cultural and literary studies and Central Americans in a U.S. Latino context.
She is the author of Changing Women, Changing Nation: Female Agency, Nationhood, and Identity in Trans-Salvadoran Narratives (SUNY 2012) and has published articles for Latin American Perspectives, Latino Studies, the Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies, and Studies in 20th and 21st Century Literature.
Currently, Padilla is working on a new project on the politics of Central American “belonging” and “non-belonging” in the United States.
Padilla also teaches Introduction to Latin American Studies, which offers a section on Latino Studies, as well as several courses dedicated to Latinx literature, culture and film, Chicanx/Latinx feminisms, and, more broadly, U.S. ethnic literatures.
Padilla holds a B.A. in literature specialized in creative writing and Latin American and Latino/Chicano studies from University of California, Santa Cruz and a Ph.D. in literature from University of California, San Diego.
A version of this story also appeared in the U of A’s Newswire publication.