Two Ph.D. students from The University of New Mexico, Gustavo García and Natalia Toscano, were awarded the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. The Ford Fellowship will fund Toscano and García’s research toward exploring, analyzing, uniting and reimagining university diversity and community.

Chicano and Chicana Studies (CCS) launched its graduate programs in 2019, which made it eligible for prestigious national fellowships like the Ford fellowship, according to Irene Vasquez, UNM associate professor and CCS director. 

“Natalia and Gustavo’s research endeavors mark the significance of the department’s growth as the only Chicana/o Studies Department in the state. Through their recognition they are placing UNM on an intellectual map of Chicanx/Latinx Studies units equivalent to other Research-1 universities in the country,” Vasquez added.

Ford Fellowship awards are made for study in research-based Ph.D. or Sc.D. programs with the incentive to increase ethnic and racial diversity of nationwide college and university students and faculties by diversifying professors to, in turn, diversify student resources. Ford’s national competition bestows fellowships by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. New Ford Fellows are invited to attend the national Conference of Ford Fellows made up of a select group of high-achieving scholars committed to enriching student education through diversity. Competitions range from Princeton University Alumni to Yale University with 140 scholars having been awarded in 2022 alone.

Natalia Toscano
Natalia Toscano

Toscano was born and raised in Oakland, Calif. She received her B.A. in Chicana/o Studies and American Indian Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She earned her M.A. in American Studies at UNM and is currently a Ph.D. student in the inaugural cohort of Chicana/o Studies at UNM. Toscano is also a Crossing Latinidades Pre-Doctoral Mellon Fellow and is co-author and research assistant for the Crossing Latinidades consortium project, AfroChicanx Digital Humanities Project: Memories, Narratives, and Oppositional Consciousness of Black Diasporas, led by Chicana/o Studies faculty, Doris Careaga.

Toscano has supported initiatives on campus to increase transfer student visibility and support, including working with the CNM-UNM Mellon New Mexico Humanities Now! Transfer Initiative and co-creating the Chicanx Studies Transfer Research Program. Toscano supports popular education initiatives including Proyecto Jaranaera, an initiative housed in the Chicana/o Studies department that supports the teaching and dissemination of Son Jarocho, a regional folk musical style from Mexico.

Toscano, alongside her co-Principal Investigators, secured an Alfonso Ortiz grant to support free Son Jarocho community classes held at La Plazita Institute in the South Valley. Beyond the academy, Toscano is a member of the Chicanx World Making and Futurities Project, a rasquache multi-media hub of Chicanx pensamiento (thinking).

“The Ford Predoctoral Fellowship will be critical in supporting my advancement in my program and getting my doctoral degree. It will provide me the opportunity to travel to places like Mexico, San Diego, Arizona, and New York, and connect with the communities whose stories are central to my dissertation study,” Toscano said.

“Alongside traveling, the fellowship will grant me the space and time to write! I aim to share what I learn from the Ford Fellowship with my peers in Chicana/o Studies and other graduate students who are seeking to advance in academia,” she added. 

Toscano’s current research focuses on the exploration of Chicana/o/x cultural production and the complexities of nationalist ideologies and discourse amongst Mexican, Chicanx, and Latinx communities.

Toscano’s dissertation explores the transnational relationship between Chicanx and Mexican leftists organizing and the struggle against neoliberal projects of resource, land, and labor extraction. Her work centers community efforts against this backdrop of domination, to amplify the imaginative and creative practices of autonomy.

Gustavo Garcia
Gustavo Garcia

García was born and raised in Los Angeles, Calif. His family migrated from a Zapotec community in the Valles Centrales of Oaxaca, San Baltazar Chichicapam, Mexico. As a first-generation college student, he received an A.A. in Social and Behavioral Sciences at Santa Monica College. He later transferred to UCLA and double majored in Chicana/o Studies and American Indian Studies. He received an M.A. in American Studies at UNM and then joined the inaugural cohort of Chicana/o Studies where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D.

“The Ford Predoctoral Fellowship will provide me the time and financial stability to make progress on my dissertation and other projects I have put aside. Since 2017, I have been working nonstop in my home departments and other programs and centers to reach financial stability,” García said. “This financial support will also allow me to visit community spaces and archives in Oaxaca and California to meet and learn from artists and cultural workers. I am thrilled to join a network of Ford Fellows scholars and to learn from their research and embark on new collaborative projects.”

García has taught in the Chicana/o Studies department, and mentored community college transfer students through the NM Humanities Now! Mellon Transfer Program and has worked with undergraduate students conducting research in the El Puente Research Fellowship. He has also received numerous fellowships that include the Crossing Latinidades Pre-Doctoral Mellon Fellowship, Center for Regional Studies Project Fellowship, ¡Lánzate! (Take off!) Travel Award Program, El Puente Graduate Fellowship, and FLAS Summer Fellowship. He is a member of the Chicanx World Making and Futurities collective, a multimedia project that uses blogs, podcasts, and zines to disseminate stories of dissent and world-making.

García’s dissertation project analyzes subversive cultural expressions of Indigenous Oaxacan people across OaxaCalifornia. Through an analysis of contemporary forms of cultural expressions such as art, music, poetry, and zines, García brings together a rich archive of Indigenous Oaxacan cultural production to locate histories of dispossession, exploitation, and violence, while also revealing other ways of being, thinking, and existing.