Nahir I. Otaño Gracia, a distinguished faculty member in the English Department at The University of New Mexico (UNM), has been bestowed with a highly esteemed Mellon Emerging Faculty Leaders Award from the Institute for Citizens and Scholars. 

Gracia, who holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has made significant contributions to the academic community here at UNM. As an assistant professor of English and Medieval Studies, she was awarded the Mellon Emerging Faculty Leaders for Literature for her work, “The Other Faces of Arthur: Whiteness and the Global North Atlantic.

Gracia's exceptional contributions have earned the admiration of the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, a renowned organization committed to advancing scholarship. As one of the recipients of the prestigious Mellon Emerging Faculty Leaders Award, Gracia joins a distinguished cohort of exceptional scholars who are poised to make a significant impact in their respective fields.

The award, which seeks to support promising early-career faculty members, aims to recognize their potential as emerging leaders in higher education. Gracia's selection for this prestigious honor underscores the significant impact she has already made on the academic community.

Nahir I. Otaño Gracia

"It means the world to me! I am trained as a medievalist and the award is to 'support junior faculty whose research focuses on contemporary American history, politics, culture, and society, and who are committed to the creation of an inclusive campus community for underrepresented students and scholars,'" said Gracia. "What this means to me is that I was able to convey to the Institute for Citizens & Scholars my commitment to responsible and critical research that centers Latin(e)x and Caribbean epistemologies as well as my commitment to anti-racist community building."

Gracia holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature and French from the University of Puerto Rico. She received her MA and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and later earned a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the University of Pennsylvania.

Gracia applied and was accepted as part of the FRESSH (Fostering Research Excellence in the Social Sciences and Humanities) pilot cohort, an initiative run by the Office of the Vice President for Research at UNM. The FRESSH Program aims to support faculty, staff, and postdocs in the Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities by developing research concepts and proposals suitable for funding opportunities from federal agencies or major foundations. 

She won the literature category award for her work on "The Other Faces of Arthur: Whiteness and the Global North Atlantic."

The Other Faces of Arthur: Whiteness and the Global North Atlantic analyzes the construction of whiteness in medieval texts and helps shape my upcoming work on decentering whiteness as knowledge," said Gracia explaining further. "I concentrate on Arthurian literature written in English, Welsh, Old Norse Icelandic, Castilian, Catalan, Latin, and Old French among other languages to demonstrate that Arthuriana’s obsession with chivalry is about whiteness—a racial category that privileges dominance—by normalizing violence and marginalizing non-whiteness. The book is under contract with Penn Press under the new RaceB4Race series.

"Now that my book is written and under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press, I have begun a multi-modal project that centers Caribbean/Latin(e)x praxis."

Additionally, the Institute for Citizens and Scholars will honor Gracia and fellow awardees at a prestigious ceremony later this year, providing them with a platform to share their research and connect with other leading scholars in their respective fields. This recognition serves as a personal triumph for Gracia and a proud moment for the English Department at UNM, showcasing the university's commitment to fostering research excellence and supporting its exceptional faculty members in their scholarly endeavors.