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Robert Vega, Director FAC 18 / 2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200 78712-1508 • 512-471-7900

Faculty Profiles - Mexican American Studies

Dr. Jason Casellas - Latino Politics


Academic Background: Ph.D. & M.A., Politics, Princeton University – Princeton, NJ; B.A. Political Science, Loyola University – New Orleans, LA

Area of Specialization: Latino Politics

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
I was inspired to become a professor because of my late grandfather who taught Spanish Literature at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio for many years. I chose political science because I was always interested in public policy debates and the legislative process.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
Since my first day of graduate school, I knew that I wanted to write a dissertation on Latino representation in Congress. I kept that interest and expanded my study to include Latino representation in state legislatures.

What topics do you teach at UT?
I teach American Government, US Congress, Latino Politics, and race/ethnicity in American politics.

Can you tell us a bit about your areas of specialization?
I have research interests in Latino politics, legislative politics, state politics, and public policy (immigration and education).

What is your current research focus at UT?
I have just completed a book based on my dissertation which examines Latino representation in State Houses and Congress. My current book project examines Latino education policies since the Bilingual Education Act of 1968. In addition to these, I am collaborating with other researchers on topics ranging from immigration policy votes in Congress to experimental research on the consequences of Latino candidates in campaigns.

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by scholars of Mexican American studies in the U.S. or around the world?
Because Latinos are the largest minority group in the country and growing, researchers are beginning to explore the cultural, social, and political impact of this new demographic reality. Immigration policy and the extent to which Latinos are politically distinctive continue to occupy scholars of Mexican American studies.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate?
In my senior year of college, I wrote a thesis on Latino political participation. This sparked my interest in pursuing advanced research in this area because I was struck by how undeveloped the literature was on this topic. Undergraduates should most definitely pursue an independent research project if they are thinking about graduate school. It will be a foretaste of what graduate school will be like, but most importantly it will give a sense of what faculty do most of the time.

What makes a good grad student?
A good grad student is someone who works hard, takes criticism well, and perseveres despite setbacks

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to a Mexican American studies graduate program?

  1. Cultivate good relationships with a few professors who will write letters of recommendation for you.
  2. Be sure your scores on the GRE are as strong as possible. If necessary, invest in a prep course.
  3. Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. To whom? Faculty and current graduate students. Find out what it is you want to research, what life is like as a graduate student, and that you REALLY want to invest a good deal of time on this career.

What are the top five Mexican American studies programs in the US?
These are for political science, in no particular order: Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley and Michigan.

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
As an MA, you can continue your studies and pursue a Ph.D. in a more specialized field, such as political science, history, or sociology. You can also work in public policy for a think tank or governmental entity.

Download Dr. Casellas' Profile

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