We are proud to feature the stories of LLILAS alumni. Do you have know someone who should be featured on this page? Please send story ideas to Communications Coordinator Susanna Sharpe.
Ana Kearney, Social Worker
Ana Kearney graduated from LLILAS and the Steve Hicks School of Social Work in August 2022 following the completion of her thesis, “Which Box to Check? How Transracial and International Adoptees from Latin America Develop Their Racial and Ethnic Identities.” She currently lives in Philadelphia, PA, and is pursuing a career in social work. She plans to continue researching adoption and issues that affect adoptees.
Kearney wrote about the personal story at the center of her master's research in a compelling article for this year's Portal magazine. Read it here.
Miguel Gutiérrez Jr., Photojournalist
Miguel Gutiérrez Jr. is a photographer, photographer, videographer, and photojournalist from Chicago. He is currently visual editor at CalMatters in Sacramento, California. Prior to that, he was a photo editor at the Texas Tribune. Miguel graduated from UT in 2015 with a dual master's degree Latin American Studies (LLILAS) and Journalism.
Miguel began community college at the age of 26, eventually transferring to the University of Illinois, Chicago, for his undergraduate degree. His interest in immigration and activism with DREAMers eventually led him to LLILAS. "The J-School and LLILAS dual-degree program at UT were easy to navigate, and there was good crossover with professors and classes. I'm happy that I was able to combine my two interests and pursue them concurrently. My work in the field while working on a video, or photographing while out with reporters, has been stronger because my LLILAS degree provides me with the context and understanding of the challenges facing certain areas of Latin America, and those impacts on communities in the U.S." Read the full profile.
Elizabeth O'Brien, Historian of Medicine
Elizabeth O’Brien is assistant professor in the Department of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. She holds a master’s and doctoral degrees from The University of Texas at Austin, where she pursued the LLILAS MA program and Latin American history from the Department of History.
"LLILAS completely changed my understanding of Latin America, and, most importantly, it was a space for critical reflection on accountability and positionality in academia as a person with white privilege who studies Mexican history. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have studied at LLILAS Benson and I hope that the many-ways-of-knowing that I was exposed to at LLILAS will stay with me forever." Read the full profile.
Rui Jie Peng, Sociologist
Rui Jie Peng, who earned her master’s from LLILAS in 2015 and graduated from UT Austin in May 2022 with a doctorate in sociology, has accepted a tenure-track position in the Department of Sociology at Lafayette College. As a faculty member in Sociology, she will have the opportunity to affiliate with the departments of Women’s and Gender Studies, Asian Studies, and Latin American Studies as well.
“My journey at LLILAS introduced me to the world of intellectual inquiries based on vigorous and socially responsible empirical research with underrepresented and marginalized populations in the Global South. . . . From there, I embarked on my doctoral training and became a sociologist and ethnographer passionate about understanding emerging gender, race/ethnicity, labor, and development issues and inequalities in China as well as Latin America." Read the full profile.
Meztli Yoalli Rodríguez Aguilera, Professor & Author
Meztli Yoalli Rodríguez Aguilera is assistant professor of Latinx and Latin American Studies and Anthropology at Lake Forest College. She was awarded a 2021 National Women’s Studies Association/University of Illinois Press First Book Prize for her doctoral dissertation, “Grieving Geographies, Mourning Waters: Race, Gender and Environmental Struggles on the Coast of Oaxaca, Mexico” (UT Austin, 2021).
At the center of Rodríguez’s work is a dying ecosystem, the Chacahua-Pastoría lagoons on the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca, which became polluted and deprived of oxygen due to a failed ecotourism project sponsored by the Mexican government. “The ecocidal death of the Chacahua-Pastoría lagoons has a symbolic and structural relationship to an expanding landscape of death in the region—specifically, a landscape of death that is racialized and gendered,” she explains. Read the full profile.