Fresno State Alumna hired as Assistant Professor at Baruch College in New York City

Graduation photo of De La Cruz.

In the center of the bustling city, looming skyscrapers lean over the busied streets full of close-pact cars and throngs of pedestrians. Chaotic sounds of the avenues reverberate through the man-made canyons, a stark contrast from the pulsing waves of Tijuana beaches. Lower Manhattan is novel for Fresno State alumna Lizbeth De La Cruz Santana, disparate to the landscapes of California and Mexico, where she grew up. 

In the fall, De La Cruz will move to New York and begin her new position as an assistant professor at CUNY Baruch College

De La Cruz with her younger brother at Baruch College in New York City.
De La Cruz with her younger brother touring Baruch College in New York City.

De La Cruz attended Fresno State, where she received her B.A. and M.A. in Spanish literature from Fresno State before entering a Ph.D. program at UC Davis in 2016. Her doctoral project on her Playas de Tijuana Mural  has received worldwide news coverage and will be an area of focus for her work as a professor of Chicano Studies at Baruch College. She graduates this spring from UC Davis with her Ph.D. in Spanish Latin American literatures and cultures.

In her new position in the Department of Black and Latino Studies, De La Cruz’s teaching will focus on enriching students’ knowledge on the U.S.-Mexico border, using the experience she has gained from her close work with the Department of Chicano Studies at UC Davis and her Playas de Tijuana Mural project.

“I really wanted students to acknowledge that studying the U.S.-Mexico border is important because we need to know that our history is rooted in between the U.S. and Mexico and how the border came to be, but also to think about the voices of people that have been affected by the border enforcement,” said De La Cruz. “It was really essential for students to know about migrant deaths at the border and groups that are supporting migrants crossing in the sense of providing humanitarian support.” 

She will be instructing classes on women in history, with a focus on Latina and Latinx women in history, among other classes. 

With an emphasis on first-hand accounts from sources who lived in and were affected by migration , De La Cruz believes that her method of teaching is valuable. She pushes students to create their own responses and build upon the materials she has introduced, which invigorates their interest and involvement in the class.

“Different topics that I think really allowed students to have a broad idea of what has been happening at the border, but basically centering people’s voices, that’s something that I try to merge all the time.” 

De La Cruz sporting a New York City hoodie.
De La Cruz sporting a New York City hoodie.

De La Cruz is excited about her new position. She is looking forward to exploring the abundant diversity in New York City and gaining deeper insight into the struggles and triumphs of immigrants in the U.S.

She anticipates “thinking more about people from Central America or different communities that maybe I haven’t had the chance to explore yet as a grad student at Davis.”

De La Cruz was born in the U.S., but she grew up between Jalisco and California. She says she has a “migration history” with her own family. Her grandparents were migrant workers and her family frequently moved between the U.S. and Mexico when she was young. 

During a particularly long stay in Mexico, she began to quickly improve speaking Spanish and to lose some of her English. She felt like she was losing an aspect of herself, something that connects her to the individuals whose stories are displayed in her murals. This sparked an appreciation and value for both of her homes and an interest in languages and cultures, particularly those of Latin America.

De La Cruz entered Fresno State as an undergraduate aiming  to enroll in the teaching credential program. However, the course of her academic career changed drastically when she took a course taught by Dr. Gloria Medina-Sancho, who introduced her to Latin American testimonio. After being inspired in her class and with Medina-Sancho’s mentorship, De La Cruz joined the College of Arts and Humanities Honors Program and decided to pursue graduate school.

Dr. Medina-Sancho said, “It has been gratifying to see Lizbeth’s academic progress and success in the Ph.D. program at UC Davis, where she has been focusing her knowledge and interest in testimonial literature and human rights onto the more contingent, urgent reality of the US/Mexico border.”

She began her Playas de Tijuana Mural Project as a part of her doctoral dissertation at UC Davis. The project painted murals of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and deported as adults to publicize their stories

De La Cruz plans on leaving her mural untouched for 10 years, the peeling paint and fading faces representative of the 10-year period in which deportees are deprived of assistance and banned from re-entering the U.S. 

In addition to teaching, De La Cruz plans to finish a documentary she began in 2019 and write a collaborative book with the participants of her mural project. She hopes that her new position will give her adequate resources to continue amplifying the voices of immigrants in the U.S.

“I am more than confident that in her new tenure-track position at CUNY Baruch, Lizbeth will become a valuable leader and educator with a view to promoting a more democratic and just society,” said Dr. Medina-Sancho.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.