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Last Chance Funding Competition Supports Six Research Projects Through the Re-Opening of Small Grants

Approaching the end of the academic year, the Race & Ethnic Studies Institute ran a Last Chance competition, re-opening small grants for the Spring 2024 semester for both faculty and students. Six research projects were selected – four faculty-led and two student-led – for the Last Chance contest. Meet the Recipients of the Last Chance […]

Approaching the end of the academic year, the Race & Ethnic Studies Institute ran a Last Chance competition, re-opening small grants for the Spring 2024 semester for both faculty and students. Six research projects were selected – four faculty-led and two student-led – for the Last Chance contest.

Meet the Recipients of the Last Chance Small Research Grants

The Last Chance Competition awarded six recipients that would not have received funding otherwise. “We recognize that there is still research that we can assist with and that people may have missed some of our earlier deadlines for funding. Because of this we wanted to provide an opportunity for research projects related to race and ethnic studies,” said Director Wanzer-Serrano. RESI is proud to announce the six recipients of the Last Chance grants: Ege Selin Islekel, Nadia Kim, Regina Mills, Kristy Pathakis, Cristina Nader, and Paula Michelle Ochoa Treviño.

Ege Selin Islekel is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Affiliated Faculty Member of Race and Ethnic Studies at Texas A&M University. Her work is on 20th Century Continental Philosophy, Post-Foucauldian Biopolitics, and Decolonial Feminisms, focusing on critical approaches to the politics of death especially in relation to collective memory, and epistemic responses to contexts of overwhelming presence of death. She is currently working on her second book, Monstrous Visions: Mechanisms of Defense and Regimes of Visibility, which provides a decolonial genealogy of monstrosity and analyzes how the notion of danger renders racialized modes of death invisible.

Nadia Kim is a professor of Sociology whose project, “Sociology and the Race Problem: The Failure of a Perspective Again?” has the desired goal of “deemphasiz[ing] constant ‘innovation,’ publication, or internal debates and critiques, and to just step back and let the communities, especially the most marginalized, do the teaching.” When asked about the inspiration for her project, she stated that she was unsettled by current study practices in sociology when it came to Asian American and Latine groups. Her project focuses on the treatment of race and racism, the impact of white nationalism against Latinx, Muslim, and Asian American populations, and why the sociological perspective did not anticipate those impacts after long standing sociohistorical patterns.

Regina Mills is Assistant Professor of Latinx and U.S. Multi-Ethnic Literature in the Department of English and core faculty in the Latina/o and Mexican American Studies program. She is an avid gamer and has wanted to study games as a scholar for many years. When asked about what she would like to share about her research, she stated that she wanted to “highlight the role of Latinos/as/xs in the gaming industries through this project. While these designers aren’t necessarily trying to ‘prove’ their Latino-ness or emphasize it in games, a lot of game history over- represents the influence of white male developers, ignoring the influence of developers of color.”

Kristy Pathakis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Texas A&M University. Her research integrates scholarship in political science, psychology, and sociology to explore the ways that social disadvantage affects people’s motivation to participate in the democratic process and the ways in which they perceive their own qualifications for political participation. She particularly focuses on how the effects of social disadvantage on political engagement often go beyond the well-documented constraints imposed by resource deprivation and include psychological barriers, such as a lack of a sense of belonging, that prevent people from participating in ways they could if they felt less constrained by social roles and other cultural norms. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California San Diego in 2020.

Cristina Nader is a third-year Ph.D. first generation student in Higher Education Administration. Her project is inspired by serving first-generation, low-income Students of Color as a practitioner in the field of education where she witnessed how students were forced to endure microaggressions in their school environments as well as how they surrounded themselves with supportive families and communities to persist despite the challenges they faced. She “hope[s] to bring awareness to the unique and compounding challenges students with multiple marginalized identities experience in higher education.”

Paula Michelle Ochoa Treviño is a Ph.D. student who studies the Transborder Lifestyle of families in the Texas-Mexico borderlands. They were inspired to research the topic because of their own transborder daily commute in order to attend high school. She hopes that in the process of contextualizing aspects of the lifestyle, studying, parenting, and schooling that her work will also help connect transborder students, teachers, and families across Texas and eventually the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

The RESI Last Chance Small Research Projects 

Ege Selin Islekel

Project Title: Monstrous Visions: Mechanisms of Defense and Regimes of Visibility

Abstract: This project examines how the concept of monstrosity, an ostensibly imaginary concept, is a colonial category deployed racially to mark parts of the population as dangerous. Dr.Islekel traces a philosophical history of monstrosity from the perspectives in Contemporary Critical Theory, Decolonial Theory, and Philosophy of Race. She developed the term ‘mechanisms of defense’ to designate the methods deployed to protect the normative unity of the society against so-called dangers. These mechanisms are shaped by racialized aesthetic patterns. A philosophical history of monstrosity shows that these aesthetic patterns historically shift from first marking threats as rare and scary, then as loathsome and alarming, and finally as frequent and troublesome. These transitions accompany a process where death becomes a normal, and not exceptional, part of politics.


Nadia Kim

Project Title: Sociology and the Race Problem: The Failure of a Discipline, Again?

Abstract: This is a cultural-intellectual history and analysis of mainstream sociology’s treatment of race and racism, namely the Asian American, Latine, and Middle Eastern/Muslim American experience. Dr.Kim evaluates the discipline’s aims and efforts to predict major societal patterns, and its  inability to do so with respect to violence against these groups despite the racial signs present. The classic book by James McKee, Sociology and the Race Problem: The Failure of a Perspective (University of Illinois Press, 1993), serves as model and parallel. In his time, McKee chronicles the intellectual history of the discipline, underscoring that sociology failed to foresee the Black American racial protest movements of the 1960s, owing to a misguided study of racism. She argues that the mainstream of the discipline did not learn the lesson of over fifty years ago, this time because it did not take seriously enough the specific nativist racism (or white nationalism) against Latinx, Muslim, and Asian American populations or the intersectional axes of it; mainstream sociology also did not interrelate these specific racisms in relation to anti-Black racism for a fuller grasp of systemic white supremacy.

Regina Mills

Project Title: Gaming Latinidad: Creating a Collection of Interviews and Oral Histories of Latinx Game Development

Abstract: Dr.Mills’ project, “Gaming Latinidad” would support a book of interviews with Latinx game developers and those who have written Latinx characters and/or narratives in games. These interviews would provide primary sources for researchers wanting to know more about how games imagine and create Latinx characters, stories, and environments. What research (if any?) is done in creating Latinx characters, narratives, and gameworlds? How are Latinx game developers, researchers, and people who have grown up Latinx incorporated in the development process? She  seeks to complete 10 interviews in the course of the grant year. This project would seek to expand the field of Latinx game studies and speak to scholars in the digital humanities, critical game studies, and Latinx studies.


Kristy Pathakis

Project Title: Echoes of Exclusion: Identifying the causes and consequences of Americans’ non-belonging

Abstract: The echoes of political exclusion are still evident throughout politics for historically excluded groups. With this project, Dr.Pathakis will develop a theory of political belonging uncertainty that identifies the types of individuals for whom belonging is likely to be especially important and consequential, and she will explain how a range of political factors can impact belonging for these types of individuals. Then, Ishe will look to the consequences of this uncertainty on how Black Americans participate in politics. Dr. Pathakis will use the awarded funds to support this research with a survey.


Cristina Nader

Project Title: Exploring the Experiences of First-generation, Low-income Students of Color with Microaffirmations at Predominantly White Institutions

Abstract: First-generation, low-income (FGLI) Students of Color at predominantly white institutions (PWIs) are targets of microaggressions that severely hinder their higher education experiences (Gray et al., 2018; Suárez-Orozco et al., 2015). Since institutional agents do not always fulfill their responsibilities to ensure a welcoming environment for this demographic of students, their capacity to contribute to the campus community diminishes, and everyone suffers (Hurtado & Ponjuan, 2005; Museus et al., 2017). The purpose of this study is to understand how FGLI undergraduate Students of Color experience microaffirmations as a response to microaggressions at predominantly white institutions (PWIs). Specifically, Cristina asks: What microaffirmations do FGLI undergraduate Students of Color encounter, if any, at predominantly white institutions? Our study included 11 participants who attended selective institutions across the country. She uses a microaggressions and racial microaffirmations conceptual framework and qualitative case study methodology to explore this phenomenon. This study will help nuance the lens through which students with multiple marginalized identities are viewed and understood.

Paula Michelle Ochoa Treviño

Project Title: The Transborder Lifestyle: Studying, Parenting, and Schooling Across Borders

 Abstract: Border commuting is the physical action of crossing borders, while transborder lifestyle or transbordering refers to straddling physical and non-physical boundaries (Anzaldua 1987; Chavez 2016; Stephen 2007). This study uses transborder or transfronterize to describe people who experience this social phenomenon. Existing research has focused on transborder college students and post-secondary schools. This gap urges us to explore the effects of Transborderism on younger students, their families, and the K-12 education system. The guiding questions for this dissertation proposal ask, “In what ways does the transborder lifestyle impact families with K-12 students in the Texas-Mexico borderlands?” followed by “What kind of strategies do transborder families use to navigate the U.S. educational system?” lastly, “How have K-12 teachers in the U.S-Mexico borderlands addressed transborder families’ experiences?” To answer these questions, ethnographic methods include visual ethnography, semi-structured interviews, and survey responses of transborder students, parents, and teachers from 5 Texas borderland cities (Brownsville, Edinburg, McAllen, Progresso, and Hidalgo). By exploring the transborder lifestyle, we can assess the impact of transborderism on families with K-12 border commuter students and their experiences with the U.S. educational system. Furthermore, this study can help study symbolic interactionism in the borderlands, showing how societies are reshaped through place and space meaning-making (Bhattacharya 2017).