Anna Ochoa O’Leary has been named the new head of the Department of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona. O’Leary, an associate professor in the department, replaces Richard Ruiz, who died on Feb. 6, 2015.
O’Leary, who obtained her Ph.D. in anthropology from the UA, is also the co-director of the UA’s Binational Migration Institute, an association of scholars dedicated to the study of how immigration enforcement affects Latino populations regardless of legal status.
“I am delighted to have someone with Professor O’Leary’s experience and community connections take the helm of this very important research, teaching and outreach unit,” said John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
O’Leary’s research and teaching focuses on immigration, gender issues, the U.S.-Mexico border, and the culture and urban politics of Mexican/U.S.-Mexican populations.
“I am very excited to lead this department,” said O’Leary. “Our faculty members are hard-working, tenacious, and highly productive.”
O’Leary says that in addition to teaching and publishing, faculty are engaged in a wide range of student and community groups, a tradition rooted in the history and mission of the department.
Created as a program in 1968 in response to student and community demands, the Department of Mexican American Studies is committed to contemporary applied public policy research on Mexican Americans. Faculty members works collaboratively with community groups in promoting leadership and empowerment of Mexican Americans within the state and the nation.
“Mexican American Studies is a gem,” said O’Leary. “We embody the land grant mission, the border region, and the meaning of diversity. As department head, I plan to encourage research and teaching that is exciting and meaningful to students as well as support initiatives that are relevant to the globalized space we live in.”
In 2006, O’Leary received a Garcia-Robles Fulbright Scholarship to research migrant women’s encounters with immigration enforcement agents. The 134 interviews from this study were the basis for the play “No Roosters in the Desert,” which has been presented in Mexico City, Tucson, Tempe, and Chicago.
Recently, O’Leary examined the impact of anti-immigrant policies on the health and human development of Latino populations in Arizona. She was also involved in a binational research project that investigated the reproductive healthcare strategies of migrant women in the Arizona-Sonora migrant corridor. Another project involved a survey of officials responsible for the post mortem examination of human remains, including those of presumed undocumented border crossers.
O’Leary co-edited New Directions in Border Research Methodology, Ethics, and Practice (University of Arizona Press, 2013) and edited Undocumented Immigrants in the United States Today: An Encyclopedia of their Experiences (ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Press, 2014).
O’Leary is active in several nonprofit community-based groups, such as the Coalición de Derechos Humanos and Fundación México.
In 2010, O’Leary received the Raúl Castro Institute Arizona Latina Trailblazer award, and in 2011, she was honored with a YWCA Women on the Move award. O'Leary is a Public Voices Fellow for 2014-2015.