Member Spotlight: Dr. Maria Chávez, PLU Associate Professor of Political Science

Dr. Maria Chávez

Pacific Lutheran University
Department of Political Science
APSA Member since 1997

Why did you become a political scientist?

Dr. Chávez: I became a political scientist for a variety of reasons; however, at the core, I wanted to understand how systems of power and oppression impact people of color, especially Latinos.  As a political scientist, I believe it is important to conduct research and teach about the political, civic, and professional experiences of Latinos, the largest ethno-racial group in the U.S.

Why did you join APSA and why do you continue to stay involved?
Dr. Chávez: Initially, it was a way to connect with other Latino academics.  These connections have sustained me during challenging times.  I remain involved because I believe it is important to have Latinos represented in professional associations where we haven’t been historically highly represented before, so that questions and issues of importance to us are addressed.

“As a political scientist, I believe it is important to conduct research and teach about the political, civic, and professional experiences of Latinos, the largest ethno-racial group in the U.S.”

What is the most challenging aspect of being a political scientist? How?
Dr. Chávez: Being treated differently by some colleagues (and even some students) who do not give a woman of color from a working-class immigrant background the same respect they give a white male. Based on my research on the experiences of Latino professionals, documented in my upcoming book, Latino Professionals in America: Testimonios of Policy, Perseverance, and Success (Forthcoming, Routledge), I know I am not alone in these challenges. However, it doesn’t make them any easier.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone in their graduate/undergraduate years, what would it be and why?
Dr. Chávez: My mentor and friend, and the first Latino political scientist I met, Luis Fraga, once said to me, “Don’t ever let others define you” when I was sharing a particularly challenging experience I was having. This is important because of how students of color are racialized and stereotyped. It has given me strength on many occasions.