Discovering Silence Through Indigenous Methodologies

Hello All!

First off I want to start by saying that the Academic Research Consortium has been a challenge since day one! Someone once told me, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” So I consider this experience to be one to develop from, to grow from, and to learn from.

I am working with the prestigious Dr. Gerardo Aldana from the Chican@ Studies department and also with Rudy Mondragon, a very knowledgeable, inspiring, and dedicated Graduate Student within the department.  Our work is centered on taking an Indigenous inspired approach to a problem and analyzing how it may be applied to provoking interest in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields for Underrepresented Youth (URY). The participation of Underrepresented Racial Minorities (URM) in STEM fields is dismal and I think that by provoking interest in the K-12 educational environment, there is a chance that more URY will become invested in wanting to participate and pursue an advanced degree in STEM fields. Not only is their participation in STEM lacking, but their participation in postsecondary education is also scarce. Dr. Tara J. Yosso depicts the Chicana/o pipeline in her book Counterstoreis.



Can you believe that less than one Chicana/o student graduates with a Doctoral Degree?

How is interest to be provoked? Well, before I could really get there, first I needed to decolonize my mind so that I had a better idea of how to employ a to be approached in an Indigenous manner and also to make visible the contemporary effects of colonialism and imperialism in Academia. Western ideologies are always considered to be the ones that “work.” In other words, western research is privileged at an institutional level. Indigenous knowledge has been dismissed for centuries and its erasure is being coerced through the acquisition of patents on “intellectual property rights” everyday. Smith’s book goes further into discussion as to how imperial research affects Indigenous peoples and how western ideology is not the only “correct” way to approach research, it is also certainly not meant to dismiss western ideology either. There were multiple perspectives that were provided through literatures reviewed such as, subaltern studies, Chicana feminis, poststructuralist, and decolonial methods. I emphasize heavily upon the work of Linda Tihuwai Smith oin her book Decolonial Methodologies.  Western research can still be applied, but in a way that serves to be productive and useful for communities that help develop t.

I was inspired by her book to construct an “Indigenous Inspired Framework” that could be applied to provoke interest in STEM for URY. Coupled with Culturally Relevant/Responsive Pedagogy (CRP), I believe that this framework would be effective in reaching out to students in the K-12 range. Some projects that inspired this framework were the ones described in Smith’s book: Testimony, Storytelling, and Sharing. How it would work is that we would need a witness to identify their experience in the STEM fields to testify. Through this Testimonio (Testimony) we can construct a narrative and proceed to intervene by delivering this to URY. What comes after is envisioning a future where the disparity in STEM education is not as dismal and we start to see more URM attain degrees in STEM fields. Envisioning aids in creating a goal and eventually pursuing these goals. Sharing the knowledge obtained through tetimonies and storytelling serves a s a form of resistance (Smith).

There is definitely more work to be done and a lot can be found by examining people who have ultimatly been disenfranchised from being able to speak on their experience with complete agency. There was a potential candidate that refused to provide testimony, but this provides us with this question: How do we gain access to a voice that has been silenced?


Thank You

Transitioning into Higher Education

This summer I got the opportunity to participate in the UCSB ARC (Academic Research Consortium) summer program and traded the ideally desired weather of sunny San Diego, for the equally desirable weather of Santa Barbara. I know, such a difficult transition. This is probably why I easily adapted to the Santa Barbara lifestyle of using flip flops, being at a close proximity to the ocean and oh- did I mention getting into frequent bike accidents? Oh yes, it is a true fact that vicious bikeriders control the streets of UCSB. But to be fair, riding a bike is useful when getting around campus. Now that I have expressed my negative encounters with bicyclists, let me enlighten you about the background of my current research.


This fall semester I will begin my last year at San Diego State University studying Sociology. As a sociology student, I am often perceived as the vibe-killer, or the person with a pessimistic view. Although we do discuss about fairly depressing subjects (hence “commit sociology”), the true objective of a sociologist is to produce meaningful descriptions of organizations or events, give valid explanations of their origin and persistence, and to provide realistic proposals and solutions for the advancement or removal of these organizations or events

During my time as a sociology student, I have realized that reality is transformed through critical reflection, and action. As a mentor and tutor of low income, first generation college students in an after school program in San Diego, I have questioned the particular problems that students face in school and within their social context. At this point in my life, I am reflecting about the hurdles that students face in school settings, many of which limit them from taking action in pursuing higher education..

The U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey of 2014, demonstrates the educational attainment of 36 million Hispanic students enrolled in U.S. schools over time. From this population 30.3% graduated from high school, 17.4%  entered college but did not receive a diploma, 3% received an Occupational Associate’s Degree, 4.1% received an Academic Associate’s Degree, and 9.4% obtained a Bachelor’s degree. This data also revealed that only 3% of the Hispanic students obtained a master’s degree, .4% obtained a Professional degree and .53% obtained a Doctoral Degree as of 2014.

collegeMy experience as a tutor and my concern for Latinos low level of educational attainment  has led me to research on issues pertaining to Latina/o students transition into Higher Education under the mentorship of Dr. Rebeca Mireles-Rios from the department of education at UCSB. In this research project, I have analyzed interviews depicting the relationships between Latina/o students and their teachers. For example, I have noted patterns in the ways that Latina/o students perceive their teachers, how the students think teachers perceive them, and the types of advice and information about college teachers provide. This is important because teachers are often the college graduates that latina/o students are exposed to the most, however Latina/o students often do not reach out to them for information regarding their academic goals.

After my graduation in Spring 2016, I plan to continue my educational pursuits by going into a graduate program in Education focusing in Cultural Development. In spite of the ferocious bikeriders I have encountered, this research experience has given me a first hand understanding of the rigorous, fatiguing, yet rewarding process of conducting research.

Talk Dirty To Me

Okay, okay, that title maybe slightly misleading if taken out of context, but in this situation I really am referring to dirt. Well actually, I have been told that it is only called “dirt” after you have gotten it on your pants and then must somehow wash it off. Other than that specific circumstance, or of course if a person possesses a Ph.D. in the subject, one shall not call soil, or any of its variations (sediment, loam, clay, earth, etc.) dirt. Basically what I am trying to get at is that there is so much more to the soil that has always been beneath our own two feet, and the potential to learn from it is both immense and exciting, and I am exceedingly happy to be a part of the research.

'We ran some samples at the lab... it's dirt alright.'

Over the course of seven weeks I have had the privilege to be a part of the Academic Research Consortium at UCSB. Through this program I have been placed under the mentorship of principal investigator and soil scientist Dr. Josh Schimel in the department of ecology, evolution, and marine biology. I have also had the opportunity to work with post docs Joey Blankinship, who also specializes in soil science, and Caryl Becerra, who focuses on microbiology, as I make my way through my research project. Though it may seem that soil is just a messy and boring part of the earth, in reality it is teeming with life and biological processes. Specifically, we have been focusing on roles and life spans of certain extracellular enzymes exclusively found in soil.

So, what is an extracellular enzyme? Or an enzyme in general? An enzyme is basically a catalyst. It helps chemical processes along, and without them many biological and chemical procedures would transpire much too slowly for life to occur. Extracellular enzymes do the same jobs, but they are unique because they exist outside of the cell. The extracellular enzymes found in soil are important because they are continuously working through a cycle that facilitates both the decomposition of organic matter and the cycling of nutrients throughout the environment.

For my project, I have been looking into the life spans of these enzymes. How long do they last? And what is their fate when we add protease or protease-producing microbes into the mix? (Enzymes are made of protein, so protease is, in a way, an enzyme eating enzyme) These are just some of the questions that I hope to answer in the remaining three weeks in the lab.


Looking back on the first days of this program I realize that there is definitely a transition period that must take place between one’s classroom lab experience and the actual experience in a research setting. I had never before been left to go about an experiment unsupervised, so I had really had to use good judgment, as well as common sense of course, to accomplish my tasks. For the first time there was not professor standing behind me to answer all of my questions and making sure that I was wearing my gloves and safety goggles, and that is in a way both relieving and intimidating. Now, I’ve got three weeks left and I cannot believe how fast the time has gone by. I am extremely grateful for being able to spend a good chunk of my summer here, and I cannot wait to apply what I have learned into my future work.