AAUW’s Latina Alumnae Spotlight

LatinX and Hispanic Americans Alumnae

AAUW is proud to celebrate LatinX and Hispanic Americans and their invaluable contributions, while also raising awareness about the inequities many still face. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month we are featuring a few of our awardees of Hispanic origin who are working to bring awareness and promote gender equity for women and girls within the LatinX community.


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Featured Alumnae

Dr. Marlén Ríos-Hernández

Dr. Marlén Ríos-Hernández (AF 2018-19)

Dr. Marlén Ríos-Hernández is an Assistant Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at California State University, Fullerton. Trained in Ethnic Studies and Musicology, her research investigates the genealogies between policing and SoCal punk communities as told by queer Black, Chicana, Latina punk women and femmes in the aftermath of the counterintelligence programs (COINTELPRO). She is a founding member of PunkCon–– a biannual conference celebrating punk scholars, activists, artists, musicians, and communities. Contact  

Assistant Professor, California State University, Fullerton
Dr. Maria Molina Higgins

Dr. Maria Molina Higgins (IF 2017-18)

Maria Molina Higgins received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the National University of Colombia, and a Ph.D. in mechanical and nuclear engineering from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research has several focuses including the photochemical properties of semiconductors and noble metals for radiation therapy and water decontamination. At the macroscopic scale, she studies the microstructural evolution and mechanical properties of chromium coated zircaloy under proton irradiation, to enable its use as accident tolerant fuel cladding material in nuclear reactors. Contact

Mechanical Engineer, Nuclear Scientist & STEM Educator

Ruth Santiago (AF 2008-09)

Ruth Santiago graduated from Lehigh University with a double major in economics and Spanish literature, then later earned her law degree from Columbia University. Her fight against environmental injustice began over two decades ago in Puerto Rico, where she has built a reputation as a community activist. Santiago currently serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. Contact

Climate activist and attorney
Dr. Mirna Troncoso Sawyer

Dr. Mirna Troncoso Sawyer (AF 2013-14)

Mirna Troncoso Sawyer is an Associate Professor in Public Health at California State University Northridge. Her research interests include family and adolescent food decisions, school and community food environments, and overweight and obesity. Dr. Sawyer received her PhD in community health sciences from UCLA. Contact

Associate Professor at California State University, Northridge
Marilyn Montúfar (CDG 2022-23)

Marilyn Montúfar (CDG 2022-23)

Marilyn Montúfar is a fine-art photographer, educator and activist with research, teaching, and exhibition experience locally, nationally, and internationally. Her work amplifies stories about underrepresented communities—youth, migrants, women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+—through the arts. Her art research focuses on migrant and gender advocacy, as well as ethnic and race studies. Contact

Photographer | Artist | Educator at Photographic Center Northwest
Valentina Alvarez

Valentina Alvarez (AF 2022-23)

Valentina Alvarez is a Ph.D. candidate in the zoology program at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. Her dissertation work focuses on utilizing genomics to gain insight into the demographic histories of several of the nonnative lizards in the Hawaiian Islands. Contact

PhD Candidate, NSF Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Hawai'i Manoa
Elizabeth Villalobos

Dr. Elizabeth Villalobos (AF 2020-21)

Elizabeth Villalobos is a scholar of Latin American literature and contemporary cultural production of Mexico and its border regions. She has conducted research on border studies and human rights in Mexico, Argentina, and Germany. Her research focuses on the intersections of gender, neoliberalism, and violence represented in prose, theater, and cinema of Mexico’s northern and southern borders. Contact

Assistant Professor of Spanish Literature, University of Nevada, Reno
Victoria Martinez (CDG 2019-20)

Victoria Martinez (CDG 2019-20)

Victoria Martinez is an interdisciplinary artist who honors her Mexican-American ancestry through textile-based projects including installation, painting, and printmaking. Her work is inspired by public art, ancient sites, architecture, and the urban environment. She has exhibited nationally and internationally including the Yale University Art Gallery and the National Museum of Mexican Art. Contact

Climate Engagement through Art in Cities fellow, Yale University