Dr. Nadia Alvarez Mexia, W.A. Franke Honors Assistant Professor of Practice, is being honored in her home country of Mexico for her years of serving as a liaison between the University of Arizona and international partner institutions and for creating programs for international students, specifically in collaboration with the University of Guanajuato. Dr. Alvarez Mexia has spent much of her professional career connecting students to exceptional educational opportunities domestically and abroad, and leveraging her personal experience as a migrant professor and student to create inclusive programs for students.
She is the first Mexican woman to receive the University of Guanajuato Internationalization Merit Award and be honored for these monumental achievements.
“I’ve been living in the United States for 17 years, but going back to Mexico to receive this award, it’s amazing and overwhelming to me. I never thought it would happen. The story begins in 2007 when I was a grad research assistant at the University of Arizona. I had no office, no team, and no budget, but I saw a need for these students. The story continues in 2022 with me being honored for this award,” reflected Dr. Alvarez Mexia.
From Play to PhD
While she was not expecting an award for it, Dr. Alvarez Mexia has always worked hard toward her goals and passions. Even at a very young age, it was no question in her mind that she wanted to earn her doctoral degree and pursue a future as an educator.
Born Ciudad Obregón, Sonora and raised in Mazatlán, Sinaloa by a working-class family of teachers, Dr. Alvarez Mexia grew up being influenced by her own family’s pedagogy. Through imaginative play as a child, she would pretend to be teaching students in her very own classroom. “One of my favorite games to play as a little one was to pretend that I was a teacher. My parents were both teachers, and so I grew up around books and spending time in my parents' school where they taught.”
Dr. Alvarez Mexia’s passion for teaching only grew as she did, taking her to earn her BS and MS in Information Systems and later onto teaching as a professor at her alma mater on campuses in Monterrey and Mazatlán, Mexico. When the time came to pursue her PhD, she chose the University of Arizona, which offered opportunities for both her and her husband to pursue doctoral studies in their respective fields, hers in education and his in the sciences.
Familia lo es Todo
Since earning her doctoral degree in 2010, Dr. Alvarez Mexia has gone on to become an award-winning educator, author, advocator, HSI fellow, and Assistant Professor of Practice at the Franke Honors College, among other achievements, including serving as the Director of Transborder Education Initiatives for the University of Arizona’s College of Education.
Currently Dr. Alvarez Mexia is pioneering inclusive programs and course offerings at the W.A. Franke Honors College. This fall, she is teaching a course called Global Diversity & Voices—a first of its kind honors course that is being taught completely in Spanish (on occasion, she uses English to assist some teaching and learning discussions). As a former migrant student, Dr. Alvarez Mexia understands the gap that Latinx, Latin American, and diverse students might face coming to college, and has designed this course to bridge that gap and exist as a safe learning space for students.
She will also be the faculty lead on the Advanced Honors trip to Mexico in summer 2023, a five-week immersive study abroad program for returning honors students. Students will learn about the diverse culture and unique social ecosystem of the country while collaborating with higher education institutions in Mexico.
“My family’s story gives me strength and inspiration, especially in my professional life. My grandmother was a businesswoman, and she was very creative. In my personal life, I receive inspiration from my core family. I have three amazing people who support me—my husband and my two children. We operate as students, learning from one another, accommodating, and lifting each other up.”
Dr. Alvarez Mexia’s story is one of pedagogy and perseverance—she has navigated through many barriers in her personal and professional life as a first-generation, migrant, and Mexican woman in her field. She continues to pave the way for students and fellow educators alike, and this award from the University of Guanajuato is a small glimpse into the vast work and service that Dr. Alvarez Mexia has and continues to dedicate her life to.
Her incredible story has been featured recently in an illustrative creative project, Mexicanas Chidas para Lectores Chidísimos written by Luciana Biondo and illustrated by Inés Hüni. The book features inspiring stories of Mexican women and girls who have overcome adversity and never given up on their dreams.