María Leonor Márquez Ponce

María Leonor Márquez Ponce, PhD student, Spanish and Portuguese

Captures Latinx higher education experiences

“As someone who came from pretty extreme poverty and made her way to higher education against extreme odds that include traveling in a cattle truck 1 hour each way to go to school beyond elementary; applying for a program to get to the US to learn English and thereby ending up at Kirkwood Community College studying agribusiness (there weren’t many choices); returning to rural Mexico to teach kids English in a program akin to AmeriCorps; and finding her way back to the University of Iowa, first for a BA and now for a PhD, Maria is really an amazing person. She embodies joy and determination.” – Jennifer New, former associate director, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies

Hometown: Rincón de Piedra Blanca, Querétaro, México

Faculty mentor/advisor: Brian Gollnick, PhD, associate professor, Spanish and Portuguese and Latin American studies

What is your degree program and expected graduate date? PhD student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese with an expected graduation of May 2024

Please describe your research: I study Chicano/a and Latino/a/x students’ testimonios regarding their experiences in higher education. Testimonios give visibility and allow for one’s story to become a source of inspiration. Part of my research consists in conducting oral history interviews with Chicano/a and Latino/a/x alumni from the University of Iowa.  Their stories reveal the complexities of their lives and their testimonios speak of the importance of education for the Latino community.

In simple terms, why does this research matter?  My research is part of a long tradition of Latina scholars who have used testimonio and their own lived realities to express their resilience and to create theory and knowledge. Using testimonio as a research tool makes a public space for stories that otherwise would have stayed hidden.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I started my research in the second year of the PhD program.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? My research has been a reminder of why obtaining an education is so important for me. It has made me more aware of the struggles that first-generation students face in higher education.  Conducting my work has given me the opportunity to engage with inspiring people. In addition, this research has helped me develop my communicative skills and has taught me how collaborative work can be so meaningful.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? My goal is to continue working on my research and work with university students as a professor or mentor.

Learn more about María: Sharing the voices of history

Banner location: not on display—