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By Grace Nance, Spring 2023 LLE SOA Research & Outreach Intern 

The UIS Sociology/Anthropology Department is delighted to welcome Dr. Maria Dueñas as a new Assistant Professor of Sociology beginning August 2023!

Professor Maria Dueñas is one of the newest additions to the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at UIS. She is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Merced, and was a 2022/2023 doctoral dissertation fellow here at UIS. She has her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from New College in Florida and a Masters of Arts in Sociology from the University of South Florida. She has been published in a variety of academic journals, such as the American Behavioral Scientist, in the Trails: Teaching, Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology, and in several other publications. She is a highly awarded sociologist, for example, winning the National Science Foundation AGEP California HSI Alliance Fellowship. Professor Dueñas says that by living in Springfield, she feels like her mission is akin to that of Abraham Lincoln, saying that her focus on “race and ethnicity, immigration, and social justice makes me feel like I am continuing his mission.” She enjoys the community at UIS because she feels connected to her talented and hardworking students. 

Professor Dueñas’ research focuses on race and ethnicity, immigration, family, and Latinx Society. Professor Dueñas is from Florida, where she was exposed to a “diverse immigrant community in South Florida which helped me learn in-depth knowledge about race and ethnicity and Latinx Cultures”. Her website discusses her research, stating, "I study racialization, racial and ethnic discourses, and racial and ethnic identity formation for Latinxs. My research examines how Latinx families in Florida and California talk about racial and cultural identity and racism and how these conversations about and experiences with racial and ethnic inclusion and exclusion are gendered and vary by class. For this project, I conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with U.S.-born Latinx children of immigrants.” Her most recent publication was with Dr. Amber Crowell at California State University-Fresno. She was a co-author on a paper that discussed how “families talked about race, ethnicity, and other social inequalities.” She used course concepts in comparison to the ideas in her teaching delivery. Her publication, Understanding Inequality through Racial Discourses Course Project, can be found here. Dueñas is also lead author on another publication with Crowell, titled “Resisting Racist Discourses with Research Methods, Active Learning, and Storytelling,” available here. 

In addition to bringing a new and valuable perspective to the department, Maria Dueñas also brings her knowledge to the Internet. She has a YouTube channel (@MariaDDueñas) that covers various educational and fun topics. She was inspired to create a sociologically focused YouTube channel because she saw a need for more content from the sociological lens. She created videos that cover race and ethnicity, immigration, teaching pedagogy, graduate school & graduate school advice, and includes videos on her acrylic painting. Her next goal for the channel is “to create videos specifically geared for undergraduates who want more support and resources for learning about sociology”. Both in her classroom and her channel, she designs her content so that students have strong academic tools to face academic and personal challenges successfully. Her coursework is “realistic” and encourages dialogue from her research, as well as elevating students' perspectives so that every student feels heard. Having this approach in sociology brings the coursework home, creating a link from theoretical sociology to its application in our daily lives. 

Maria Dueñas brings strength to the University of Illinois at Springfield because her research is thorough and relevant, because of her social media presence, and because of her value for mental health and well-being-- something both students and faculty value. In my experience working with Professor Dueñas, while she is an educator, she is also a genuine person to talk to. She takes time to focus on students' well-being and is a very understanding person when it comes to mental health and how it impacts education. She takes time to get to know every person or student that she works with. Her specialization on race and ethnicity, immigration, and Latinx culture is of huge benefit to the strength of this department. Her focus on quality pedagogy makes Professor Dueñas a strong new faculty member at UIS.

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