Meet Jody Aguis Vallejo: Sociologist and Fighter for Equality

October 03, 2012

In honor of National Hispanic American Heritage Month, which continues through October 15, we want to recognize 2011–12 American Fellow Jody Aguis Vallejo, who took on the intricate and complex dilemma of stereotypes and inequality in her new book, Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican American Middle Class.

The book, published in August 2012, focuses on the Mexican American middle class and addresses the negative stereotypes that are often attributed to Mexican Americans as a whole. “A lot of times people stereotype Mexican Americans as poor, uneducated, and unauthorized,” Vallejo says. She reviewed research that theorized that Mexican Americans couldn’t progress to the middle class, which inspired her to approach this concept from another angle — the mechanisms and experiences that allow Mexican Americans to reach that class status. Vallejo says that her AAUW American Fellowship was of great help to her because it provided financial support for her book manuscript. She explains that as an assistant professor, writing a book is critical to gain tenure — she will be eligible next year.

Writing a book and becoming a professor wasn’t always Vallejo’s goal. “I just knew I wanted to change the world and give back,” she says. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, she realized that she cared about inequality issues and began taking sociology classes to fulfill her curiosity and concern. She wanted to know what causes inequality in society and how to create solutions. She also cared a lot about the Mexican American experience, and this helped shape her purpose in academia and in her research.

Today, Vallejo has quite a bit on her plate. In addition to her job as an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Southern California, she is conducting a study on middle- and upper-class Mexican American entrepreneurs and how they are changing businesses. She also plans to continue mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, especially women of color and of women Mexican American descent. When asked what inspires her, Vallejo says that her subjects and students do, and  this is why she encourages others to reach out to their communities. “It is so important to do this, meet others, network, cross boundaries, build a core group of people who don’t necessarily share the same interests, and attack inequality,” she says.

Vallejo’s American Fellowship was sponsored by four California endowments: the Carole Jones Bovitz American Fellowship, established in 1985; the AAUW Fresno (CA) Branch American Fellowship, established in 1979; the AAUW Redding (CA) Branch 60th Anniversary American Fellowship, established in 2002; and the Southeast District American Fellowship, established in 1981.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Bianca Rhule.

By:   |   October 03, 2012

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