UA Creates National Prize for Academic Excellence in Mexican American Studies

The UA Department of Mexican American Studies is committed to contemporary applied public policy research on Mexican Americans and works collaboratively with community agencies in promoting leadership and empowerment of Mexican Americans within the state and the nation. It is also one of the few institutions in the country that offers a B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in the discipline.


Anna O’Leary, head
UA Department of Mexican American Studies

Indira Arce, outreach coordinator
UA Department of Mexican American Studies


The award, created by the UA Department of Mexican American Studies, Fundación Mexico, and the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson, will be given to Professor Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez at a dinner fundraiser benefiting MAS graduate students.

The newly created Saber es Poder-IME Academic Excellence Award in Mexican American Studies recognizes an outstanding scholar whose work has demonstrated sustained excellence and long-term commitment to advancing the interdisciplinary field of Mexican American studies. The award also recognizes contributions in the areas of teaching, community engagement and the promotion of social justice.

The award, which comes with a $10,000 prize, was created by the University of Arizona Department of Mexican American Studies in collaboration with Fundación Mexico, a local Tucson nonprofit; and the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson. The initiative reflects a longstanding grass-roots collaboration between the groups on immigration issues and on supporting the well-being of Mexican Americans and Mexican nationals living in the United States.

The first award recipient is Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez,  a Regents’ Professor of the School of Transborder Studies and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change,  and Motorola Presidential Professor of Neighborhood Revitalization at Arizona State University.

Vélez-Ibáñez will give a public talk on April 27 at 6 p.m. at the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson. An awards celebration on April 28 will raise funds for graduate students in the Department of Mexican American Studies.

Saber es Poder” /“Knowledge is Power”
The prize money for the Saber es Poder-IME Academic Excellence Award was provided by an anonymous donor affiliated with an NGO. The IME in the award name stands for Institute for Mexicans Abroad (Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior), an agency of the Mexican government's Foreign Ministry that supports Mexicans who live and work abroad. The intent is for the award to be given out annually, pending continued funding.

Anna Ochoa O’Leary, head of the UA Department of Mexican American Studies, says the award brings attention to the interdisciplinary field of MAS, acknowledges the importance of diversity and “highlights the good work being done by scholars at the national level.”

To find the first recipient, a call for nominations was distributed to academic institutions throughout the United States, and a committee of academics from five universities reviewed the applicants.

Recipient Vélez-Ibáñez said that the award is “a manifestation of the importance of the field of Mexican American studies. It truly is a Mexican American award. And that gives it a special place unlike any other award, the fact that it joins the academic and historical realities of this population separated by this border that is only two grandmothers old.”

About Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez
Vélez-Ibáñez researches the transborder regional economy, transnational migration, culture, language and learning, and household and community formations. He has received numerous awards and was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and named as a corresponding member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences (Miembro Correspondiente de la Academia Mexicana de Ciencias).

Vélez-Ibáñez has deep ties to the University of Arizona. He received his B.A in political science and an M.A. in English from the UA before getting a Ph.D. in anthropology from University of California, San Diego. He was the founder and director of the UA Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology and a professor in the School of Anthropology from 1982 to 1994.

“I am elated and honored to receive the award for many reasons, not the least of which is the UA is my alma mater, and I am a Tucson guy,” Vélez-Ibáñez said. “That the award is from Mexican American Studies and the UA is highly significant. I have received other awards, but this one just tops it all.”

Public Lecture: A free reception and public lecture by Vélez-Ibáñez will be held on Friday, April 27, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. at the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson art gallery, located on 3915 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson.

The lecture, titled “What We Know to Be True – Mexican American Studies,” will be about how “the narratives of this population were largely ignored by both Mexico and the United States until the emergence of Mexican American studies.” Vélez-Ibáñez added: “It is not going to be a polysyllabic, dreadful rendition of facts. It is going to be very personal, very historical.”

Awards Dinner: An awards celebration will be held at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, 2018, at Tucson Marriott University Park, 880 E 2nd St, Tucson. Tickets for the event, which includes a no host bar, dinner, and live entertainment, are $75. Proceeds go toward the MAS-Fundación México Graduate Student Endowment Fund, which helps fund the research projects of graduate students in the UA Department of Mexican American Studies.

For more information or to purchase tickets, click here

Published Date: 

03/13/2018 - 9:06am