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History Professor Awarded Year-Long Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship

Apr 5, 2011

Marisela RamosDr. Marisela Ramos, Assistant Professor in the History Department, was awarded a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship for 2011-2012 to work on her manuscript, "Black Mexico: Nineteenth-Century Discourses of Race and Nation."

This prestigious award is given to support "outstanding individuals and institutions to help reshape American education." The Woodrow Wilson Fellows include 13 Nobel Laureates, 35 MacArthur Fellows, 11 Pulitzer Prize winners, two Fields Medalists.

Dr. Ramos, who began teaching Latin American History at Pacific in 2007, received a "Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty" from the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation. The fellowship will allow her to spend a year transforming her dissertation into a publishable book, which will fill a gap in the existing scholarship regarding nineteenth-century Afro-Mexican history.  To date, no book-length manuscript has been published on this topic.

In her research, Dr. Ramos builds on the historical study of Afro-Mexicans to provide a rationale for the "disappearance" of Blacks from modern Mexican national identity, as well as from the political, social and cultural landscape of post-colonial Mexico. This "disappearance" has been historically attributed to Mexico's history of ethnic mixing, which is presumed to have resulted in a dilution of visible African characteristics.

"I seek to answer the question of how the nineteenth-century architects of national identity were able to erase the African historical presence from the national consciousness of modern Mexicans," said Dr. Ramos. "I hope to open avenues to a rethinking of the contemporary identity of Mexicans, including a recovery of the 'obscured' African presence."

As part of the fellowship program, Dr. Ramos must choose a mentor to support and guide her scholarship. Dr. Ben Vinson III, the foremost scholar on Afro-Mexican studies, has agreed to be her mentor.  Dr. Vinson is Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Center at Johns Hopkins University. The two have known each other for years, as they are both Andrew W. Mellon Fellows. 

"I am very excited that Ben Vinson has agreed to be my mentor. I am really fortunate that he is not only a leading authority in Afro-Mexican studies, but as a fellow historian, he is especially equipped to guide me in the approach I am taking with my manuscript," said Dr. Ramos.

Dr. Ramos will also seek guidance from Dr. Evelyn Hu-DeHart, Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University, where Dr. Ramos earned her undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees.

At Pacific, Dr. Ramos credits Dr. Xiaojing Zhou (English and Ethnic Studies) and Dr. Marcia Hernandez (Sociology) with being especially supportive, and helping her navigate her career path.

She also appreciates the assistance she received from Dr. Edie Sparks and Dr. Cynthia Dobbs, of the College of the Pacific Deans office, in working through the logistics of taking a leave at this stage in her career. "It is very important for junior faculty to know that their institution supports them in their scholarship," said Dr. Ramos.

Dr. Ramos is a recognized mentor herself. She was one of four Pacific professors to receive the Faculty Mentor Award given by the Alumni Association last August. She has inspired students inside and outside the classroom. She is an advisor to the student organization MEChA (the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan) and the Pacific PRIDE Alliance. She stated, "I see my membership in these groups as an opportunity to connect with students, offering them timely advice and guidance, and opening their minds to different possibilities."

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