Congratulations to Alfonso Ayala, outstanding Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar recipient for the 2023-2024 year. Alfonso shared how he feels to be selected, highlights from his program, and how SJSU has shaped his graduate education.
Alfonso Ayala | 24′ M.A., Chicana and Chicano Studies
My name is Alfonso Ayala III, and I am a graduate student in the Chicana and Chicano Studies program. I started taking classes through Open University in Fall 2021; I am currently starting my final year in the program, and plan to graduate Spring 2024!
Being selected as a Sally Casanova Scholarship recipient is a tremendous honor. I started my journey back to graduate school because I knew that I wanted to continue on and pursue a Ph.D.; having access to funding and support that will help me realize my dream is something I am incredibly grateful for. I also believe that being awarded this scholarship is a testament to the community that I have around me. I struggled for a long time with drug addiction and thankfully, I am now sober. My sober community has been instrumental on my journey back to school, and throughout. And throughout the application process, I had a great friend, Marlene Andrade (2022-2023 recipient of the scholarship!) provide immense support and encouragement.
I have been fortunate enough to participate in a few research experiences since I’ve been at SJSU. As part of my Policy Analysis and the Chicana/o Community course, utilizing autohistoria and interviews with research participants, I conducted a small ethnographic study of Latinx teacher recruiters and the way that their racialized identity impacts their work of diversifying the teacher workforce. In Spring of 2022, I presented my research at the California Chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education and also at the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies Annual Conference. This past academic year, I have been working on a research project under the guidance of Dr. Carrie Sampson at Arizona State University, in which we completed a critical discourse analysis of media coverage of school board decisions on mask mandates, school police, and critical race theory. This research was part of a Presidential Session at the American Education Research Association Annual Meeting in April. My current research interests lie at the intersections of Chicana/o Studies, Ethnic Studies, American Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. I am interested in Chicanx sobriety, identity, and spirituality; I am also interested in how the journey of sobriety impacts Chicanx conceptions of identity and spirituality. For my Master’s project, I am primarily using autohistoria and critical analysis of recovery literature, though I hope to include other methods such as oral history and testimonio in future work.
SJSU has shaped my graduate experience in ways I could have never imagined. As I mentioned before, I knew I wanted to earn a PhD, but there was no way I could have ever imagined the ways that my SJSU experience could have prepared me for the journey of applying for doctoral programs. Starting from my very first course through Open University with Dra. Vega, her humanizing classroom made it clear to me that the Chicana and Chicano Studies department was where I belonged. Dra. Vega has been a fierce advocate and champion of mine from the beginning; it was her guidance that encouraged me to submit my first conference proposal! Dr. Ramirez (aka Dr. Johnny) has stressed the importance of applied praxis in every class he teaches; he gets us to think beyond just the problem and dream up possible solutions. Dr. Curry has pushed my thinking in ways I could have never imagined; she has helped me become a deliberate scholar who thinks critically about what scholars are arguing, and also about my own beliefs and assumptions. And, of course, we can’t do this alone–my amazing classmates (shout out especially to Marlene, Annette, and Naomie!) have helped me stay committed. Late night study sessions, peer edits, tons of laughs. I can’t say enough good things about the faculty and students in our department.