New Faculty Spotlight: Cati de los Ríos

Cati de los Ríos became an Assistant Professor at the School of Education last summer 2018, following her service as an Assistant Professor of Education, Culture and Society at UC Riverside. With expertise in ethnic studies, literacy, youth engagement and social change, de los Ríos joins the School of Education as a decorated early career scholar. She was conferred two 2018 American Educational Research Association Outstanding Dissertation Awards from the Critical Educators for Social Justice Special Interest Group (SIG) and the Hispanic/Latinx Research SIG; and the 2018 Promising Researcher Award and the 2018 Alan C. Purves Award, both from the National Council of Teachers of English.

In addition to her PhD and master of philosophy degree from Columbia University’s Teachers College and master’s degree in theological and religious studies from Harvard Divinity School, de los Ríos holds teaching credentials in Bilingual Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development and Secondary Spanish Language and Literacy. “I was a public school teacher in Massachusetts and California,” said de los Ríos, “following the lead of many women in my family who were teachers in Mexico and in California. While teaching in Southern California, I noticed my students who were classified as English language learners experienced very reductionist types of curriculum. This pushed me to gain the theoretical and methodological tools I needed to become an educational researcher and better serve these students.”

de los Ríos’s research explores the intersections of adolescent literacies, transnationalism, ethnic studies and teacher education, and she has done groundbreaking research around the rich cultural language and literacy practices and resources of students from immigrant backgrounds, specifically Latinx or US–Mexico transnational youth. “Some of my recent research has been looking at students’ critical reading, writing and performances of Mexican corridos, a form of Mexican folk ballads,” she said, “and its subgenre of narcocorridos that speak specifically to the transnational drug trade. It’s often seen as a deviant activity to listen to narcocorridos, but it’s a daily literacy practice that many youth use to interpret their larger socio-political world and think through complex moral and political lessons. These students have so many powerful literacy and language resources and practices that often go unrecognized by educators.”

For de los Ríos, education is a setting for empowerment. “Education is such a powerful place to be,” she said. “Being an education researcher allows me to critique institutions but also be a part of a solution. I want to be able to capture what a culturally empowering education can look like and reimagine more humanizing ways of educating all students.”

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