NewsMay 26, 2020

Dr. Tatiana Cruz earns prestigious Wilson/Mellon fellowship

Assistant Professor of History lauded for bringing underrepresented perspectives to curriculum, formidable record of service

Faculty Tatiana Cruz smiling

Assistant Professor of American History Tatiana Cruz was recently named a 2020 Career Enhancement Fellow by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The fellowship, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, creates career development opportunities for selected faculty fellows with promising research projects.

According to the Wilson Foundation, the Career Enhancement Fellowship Program seeks to increase the presence of minority junior faculty members and other faculty members committed to eradicating racial disparities in core fields in the arts and humanities.

The foundation adds that the fellows represent top institutions from across the country. Fellows work in such disciplines as African American and diaspora studies, English, LGBTQ studies, political science, sociology, and musicology. 

“I chose to apply because this would be an excellent opportunity for me,” Cruz says. “I was very excited to find I was awarded a six-month sabbatical grant so I can be released from all teaching and service work and focus on my research.”

Now finishing her third year at Lesley, Dr. Cruz is a historian of race and gender in modern U.S. culture. Her areas of specialty include African American history, Latinx history and 20th century social movements. The fellowship includes a stipend and an August retreat in Savannah, Georgia, depending on the nation’s progress regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The fellowship also affords me a wonderful network of promising scholars of color who are all in the same point of their career as I am as well as the formal mentorship of a senior scholar in my field,” Cruz says. “I will be working with Dr. Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, professor of history at the University of Connecticut, whose work and career I admire greatly. I am thrilled to receive his support and guidance on my scholarship and academic career.”

She adds that she plans to use her fellowship leave to work on a book manuscript as well as a book proposal and to complete an academic journal article.

“My book manuscript, tentatively titled ‘Boston's Struggle Beyond Black and Brown: Race, Identity, and Community Organizing Since 1950,’ is the first historical monograph to examine the comparative and relational history of African American and Latinx racial and political formation, community development and mobilizations for racial justice in the city in the postwar era,” she says. 

Humanities Division Chair Dr. Christine Evans, in her recommendation letter to the foundation on Cruz’s behalf, wrote that “social justice and inclusion are at the center of her teaching philosophy and her research,” and applauded her commitment to service leadership.

“Tatiana plunged headlong into important service opportunities,” Dr. Evans wrote. “ She was willing to step in where her involvement was most needed: work to further the various diversity initiatives on campus (working to sponsor events to coincide with Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month; offering a workshop on the history of bilingual education for a recruitment event; participating on panels on bell hooks’s “Writing Beyond Race” and on racial tensions during the Trump presidency; working to facilitate listening forums where students expressed their concerns about race, gender identity and bias at the college.)”

Evans also cited Cruz’s ability to view cornerstones of U.S. history curriculum through the perspective of marginalized populations, and with nuance.

“I visited a U.S. history class last year in which she approached the U.S. experience in World War II through the lens of the Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles, an incident that brought out racial tensions as well as the tensions within the Chicano community between more ‘traditional’ views and the youth culture, both of which were harbingers of changes working within the post-war United States,” Evans wrote. “Her care to bring in a range of American views and experiences is admirable and makes for successful classes.”

Cruz holds a Ph.D. in history, a master’s degree in history and a graduate certificate in African American and diaspora studies from the University of Michigan. She received her bachelor’s degree in history and American studies from Williams College.