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Specialist on Central American-US Migration to join KU as Foundation Professor

Thursday, March 26, 2015

LAWRENCE — A variety of push-and-pull influences — such as violence, politics and economics — contribute to migration and human mobility. Now, a leading scholar of international migration will bring her expertise in the field to the University of Kansas as a Foundation Distinguished Professor.

Cecilia Menjívar, currently a distinguished professor and associate director for faculty development in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University, will join the KU faculty in the fall.  

“We’re delighted to welcome Dr. Cecilia Menjívar to the Sociology Department at KU,” said David Smith, professor and chair of the department. “Dr. Menjívar is one of the most eminent and productive scholars in the field of Central American and immigrant studies.  Her research — on matters of great and immediate significance, from gender and the family to social exclusion and inclusion — will greatly strengthen KU’s profile in those areas. Cecilia Menjívar will be a tremendous addition to the KU community, and, as a foundation professor, she will be an outstanding ambassador for KU.”

Her multifaceted research focuses on U.S.-bound migration from Central America and the effects of legal, social and economic exclusion on different aspects of immigrants’ lives, such as social networks, gender relations, family dynamics, religious participation and more. She also has been examining the militarization of the southern U.S. border and its consequences for the immigrants who risk their lives to cross it. In addition, she researches issues of political violence and state terror in Central America. Based on her fieldwork in Guatemala, Menjívar has been writing about the effects that various forms of violence — structural, institutional, political and gender — have on the social realms of Central American women.

“Dr. Menjívar brings to KU a consummate understanding of transnational migration,” said Jeffrey S. Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor. “She will generate additional national and international recognition for the work KU conducts in the fields of migration, immigration and vulnerable populations. As a prominent scholar she will further several of KU’s strategic initiatives, most notably to build communities and expand opportunities.”

In her new role at KU, Menjívar will co-lead the creation of a new center focusing on migration and immigration studies. She currently serves on the National Academies of Science/National Research Council Panel on Immigrant Integration, a committee charged with writing a report on the state of immigrant integration in the United States today.  

Menjívar, who has been on the faculty at Arizona State since 1996, is a prolific and award-winning author. Two of her six books, “Enduring Violence: Ladina Women’s Lives in Guatemala” and “Fragmented Ties: Salvadoran Immigrant Networks in America,” have both received numerous awards and accolades. She has written more than 90 articles and book chapters and a number of additional reviews and commentaries. She is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. She has served on editorial boards of more than a dozen prestigious journals in sociology, Latino studies, gender studies and social justice.

She is an active member of a number of professional organizations, including the American Sociological Association, for which she currently serves as the organization’s vice president.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from the University of Southern California, a master’s degree in international education from USC, a master’s degree in sociology from University of California, Davis; and a doctorate in sociology from UC, Davis.

Menjívar is one of five Foundation Distinguished Professors to be announced this year and one of 12 overall.

KU’s Foundation Distinguished Professor initiative is a unique partnership between the university and the state of Kansas to attract eminent faculty members to support one of the university’s four strategic initiative themes.  In her role as a one of 12 Foundation Professors, Menjívar will play a leadership role in advancing one of KU’s strategic initiative themes: Building Communities, Expanding Opportunities.  She also will be involved in furthering KU’s growing expertise in the sphere of migration, immigration, diaspora and human trafficking.

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