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San Diego State University

Faculty-Student Mentoring Program

Irene Lara, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Womens Studies

My goal is to mentor undergraduates who are seriously contemplating becoming professors and passionately interested in learning what it means to be a scholar-activist in the interdisciplinary field of Women’s Studies and the subfield of Chicana/Latina Studies. Applicants must exemplify emotional and intellectual readiness to engage in this rigorous and intimate program that will take shape in a graduate school-style, weekly, two to three hour seminar. Weekly readings, discussion, writing and other assignments will be required. Specifically, I will draw from my areas of scholarly expertise (cultural analysis of creative texts; oral histories with Chicana/Latina/ indigenous women healers and health activists; feminist pedagogy–including holistic bodymindspirit approaches to teaching and learning; and the relationship between spirituality and sexuality) to train protégés to do several forms of research and writing. The skills students will learn include: conducting qualitative interviews and analysis; reading and interpreting cultural texts, such as visual art and creative writing; and writing and enacting feminist theory based on experience that links the personal with the political. I envision our work together as an opportunity to share my knowledge as a teacher, activist-scholar, and mentor and give back to a new generation of budding scholars the type of mentorship I received years ago. Indeed, I am honored to have the opportunity to continue to grow as a professor and learn from my protégés.

In the fall semester, I will provide training that will prepare students for applying to graduate school. Our seminar topics will include: Thriving in the Academy; The Graduate School Application Process; Research Resources; and Writing a Research Proposal. In addition, I will focus on teaching students several research methods that I employ in my work as a scholar, teacher, and activist. We will draw from feminist scholarship that addresses such models as the scholar-activist, spiritual activism, and researcher as healer within the context of cross-cultural and transnational perspectives. Frameworks that address the intersectionality of gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and ability will also be central to our studies. I will provide students with an overview of how I conduct several of my on-going research projects: 1. A Borderlands Healer: An Oral History of Curandera Madre Sarita; 2. Decolonizing the Sacred: Chicana/Latina Writers and Artists Healing the Spirituality and Sexuality Split; 3. Panocha Pláticas: Healing Sex and Sexuality in Community; and 4. Feminist Pedagogy: Curandera Praxis in the Classroom. By the end of the semester, students will have the option of participating in one of these projects and investigating their own research angle or developing a separate research project that will utilize their training. Students will also have the option to collaborate with one another on team-based research projects. They will submit a research project proposal with an annotated bibliography in December.

In spring, I will regularly meet with students to guide them through the research process, including data collection, thesis development, analysis, and writing. Their individual or collaborative research-based projects will take the form of an original research paper (20-30 pages long) and/or a creative work informed by scholarship (e.g., research-to-performance play; ‘zine; curated exhibit; personal essay). I will help the students develop their projects in seminar by guiding them from an idea they feel passionate about to a question they will seek to answer or issue they wish to present. Moreover, students will present their work at a self-designed symposium. Students will also be encouraged to submit their work to SDSU’s undergraduate research symposium and undergraduate research prize competitions, campus wide and in the department of Women’s Studies. Finally, the mentor will guide protégés in identifying summer research opportunities, via the McNair Scholars program at SDSU or programs at universities nationwide.

I would not be a professor today were it not for institutionally supported mentorship programs such as SDSU’s Faculty-Student Mentoring Program. As a Chicana first-generation college graduate who greatly benefited from mentoring programs throughout my undergraduate and graduate training, at Stanford and UC Berkeley respectively, I am fully dedicated to assisting students move through the higher education pipeline with their whole bodymindspirit flourishing. I love to mentor and look forward to every journey I embark on with protégés, individually and collectively.


Dr. Lara

Womens Studies

5500 Campanile Drive
Office: AL-353
Mail Code: 6030
p. 619-594-7151
f. 619-594-5218