Affiliated Faculty

Co-Chairs 2017 – 2019

Yomaira C. Figueroa, Ph.D.

DR. YOMAIRA C. FIGUEROA is assistant professor of Afro Diaspora Studies in the department of English and the African American & African Studies program at Michigan State University. Her work examines 20th century U.S. Latinx Caribbean, Afro-Latinx and Afro-Hispanic literature & culture. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in the department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and her B.A. in English, Puerto Rican & Hispanic Caribbean Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick (Douglass College). A native of Puerto Rico, Yomaira was raised in Hoboken, NJ and is a first-generation high school and college graduate. Along with Professor Rae Paris, Yomaira is the co-founder of WOCI at Michigan State. In her spare time Yomaira loves to travel, write short stories, create DIY projects, and spend time with her partner and pets: a dog and a turtle!

Estrella Torrez, Ph.D.

DR. ESTRELLA TORREZ is an Associate Professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. Her scholarship centers on critical pedagogy, civic engagement, multicultural education, Indigenous education and sociocultural literacy, particularly among rural migrant families and urban Indigenous youth. Dr. Torrez is a Gates Millennium Scholar, being awarded the prestigious award during its inaugural year. She attended The University of New Mexico, receiving an MA with dual concentrations in Early Childhood Multicultural Education and Bilingual Education, and a PhD in Educational Thought and Sociocultural Studies with a concentration in Bilingual Education. As a child, Torrez attended specific schools for migrant children until, at the age of twelve, she began working alongside her parents and grandparents in the fields. Later, she taught within the same migrant educational system, eventually working for the Office of Migrant Education in Washington, DC. In 2009, Torrez co-founded the Indigenous Youth Empowerment Program (IYEP), a program serving urban Indigenous youth and families in Michigan. She presently serves as IYEP’s co-director and facilitates an afterschool program for youth in Kindergarten through twelfth grades, as well as organizes a summer cultural camp for 65 urban Indigenous youth. From 2011-2013, Dr. Torrez served as a Commissioner on the Metropolitan Detroit Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where she was charged with interrogating structural racism embedded in housing, education, and criminal systems. In the spring of 2013, she initiated the Nuestros Cuentos collaborative project with the College Assistance Migrant Program and Lansing School District. Nuestros Cuentos brings together students from MSU’s RCAH and CAMP with 4th-6thgrade Lansing Latinx youth in a storytelling project. The project results in a fully illustrated children’s book sharing the Latinx youth’s experiences of living in Michigan. Since the inception of Nuestros Cuentos over eighty children have had their stories published in four volumes.

Core Committee 2017 – 2019

Rae Paris, M.F.A

PROFESSOR RAE PARIS is from Carson, California with roots extending to New Orleans. Professor Paris’s writing, research, teaching, and service is layered in land, memory, resistance, Black and Brown futures, and love. Co-founder of the Women of Color Initiatives, she served as co-chair from spring 2016-fall 2017. She is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, and core faculty in African American and African Studies. Her poetry, fiction, and essays appear in a variety of journals. Her work has been supported by an NEA Literature Fellowship, and writing residencies from the Wurlitzer Foundation, the Hambidge Center, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook, Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA). Her poem “The Forgetting Tree” was selected as Best of the Net 2013. Her short story “The Girl Who Ate Her Own Skin” was a recommended story in the 2009 O. Henry Prize Stories, and her collection was a finalist for the 2008 Flannery O’Connor Award for Fiction. Her current book projects include a young adult novel titled You, and a co-edited volume of essays tentatively titled Racing Creative Writing: Pedagogy and Practice. Her book The Forgetting Tree: A Rememory is forthcoming December 2017 from Wayne State University Press. Using poetry, prose, and images, The Forgetting Tree: A Rememory remembers her father’s life and death within an assemblage of past and present racial violence and resistance to terror in the United States. In January 2018 she’ll join faculty at the University of Washington as Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in the MFA program.  She’ll miss the brilliant womxn of WOCI.

Tamara Butler, Ph.D.

DR. TAMARA BUTLER is an Assistant Professor of Critical Literacies in the Department of English. She holds a joint affiliation with the English Education and the African American and African Studies Programs.  Her current project, The Black Girl Land Project, explores Black women’s connections to land as documented in their life stories, as well as those highlighted in Black women’s creative works (i.e., film, art, poetry and literature). She is currently working on her book, Rooted Literacies, which focus on the storytelling practices and memory work of Black women living in her home community of Johns Island, South Carolina. Through interviews, conversations and intimate archival research, she unpacks how the women document the histories and landscapes of this and nearby Island communities.

Delia Fernandez, Ph.D.

DR. DELIA FERNÁNDEZ is a historian of Latina/o history whose work focuses on how Latina/o’s use panethnic identity to garner more political, social, and economic rights in the twentieth century. Her research and teaching interests also include the intersections of race, ethnicity, and sexuality in American history. She is particularly interested in immigration, migration, labor, social movements and women’s history.

Maribel Santiago, Ph.D.

DR. MARIBEL SANTIAGO is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. She also holds appointment in the Department of History and is affiliated faculty with the Chicano/Latino Studies Program. Dr. Santiago is among the first scholars to specialize in the teaching and learning of Latinx history in K-12 classrooms.

Leslie Gonzales, Ph.D.

DR. LESLIE D. GONZALES is an associate professor of higher, adult and lifelong education. Gonzales’s research agenda consists of three overarching lines of inquiry: (1) legitimacy within the academic profession and the broader field of higher education; (2) transnational relations of power that govern the recognition of knowledge and knowers; and (3) the possibility of agency among academics to negotiate, remake or resist marginalizing structural and cultural features of academia. Gonzales is a first-generation working class student-turned-academic, and earned all three academic degrees from Hispanic-serving institutions, including New Mexico Highlands University and The University of Texas at El Paso.