Division G (Social Context of Education) of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) has recognized Dr. Mayra Puente of UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School with its 2023 Dissertation Award. This is the second AERA award Puente has received for her dissertation, written to complete her Ph.D. of Education at UC San Diego. The title of her dissertation is Ground-Truthing en el Valle de San Joaquín: A Mixed Methods Study on Rural Latinx Spatiality and College (In)Opportunity.

Dr. Puente will be recognized with AERA’s Division G 2023 Dissertation Award at AERA’s Annual Meeting this spring. The event will be held April 15th at 6:30 PM CDT, in room A of the Zurich Ballroom at Swissôtel Chicago.

Division G of AERA—Social Context of Education—exists specifically to support scholarly inquiry and discourse around the social contexts that shape / are shaped by educational institutions worldwide, with an emphasis on equity, access, and opportunity, as well as diversity and the role of culture in education.

Division G’s 2023 Dissertation Award recognizes one dissertation of “exemplary quality” which discusses an important topic related to the social contexts of education. Puente’s dissertation examines the intersectional roles Latinx identity, racialized rural space, and college (in)opportunities played in college decisions of rural Latinx youth in California's San Joaquín valley. By mapping sociospatial narratives of rural Latinx youth in Tulare County, Puente demonstrated barriers to higher education experienced by this demographic, with implications for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners invested in addressing these barriers.

Dr. Mayra Puente is an Assistant Professor of higher education in the Department of Education, where she studies issues of higher education for rural Latinx students and other institutionally marginalized student groups and communities. Before coming to Gevirtz and earning her Ph.D. in Education at UC San Diego, she received her B.A. in Political Science, with a concentration in Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, from UCLA. There, she also pursued minors in Education studies and Chicana/o studies.

Dr. Puente’s passion for higher education access and equity for Latinx populations is driven by the educational barriers she faced as a first-generation college student from a Mexican im/migrant farm working family and her higher education advocacy work for rural Latinx youth in the San Joaquin Valley. As a UCSB professor, Dr. Puente seeks to extend her research and service to California’s Central Coast, studying the higher education (in)opportunities of institutionally marginalized students and communities within the region.

Mayra Puente