Alex Mejia

Latino/a/x engineering students’ Conocimiento: La facultad and seeing deeper realities of surface phenomena


As a response to the (in)actions to provide equitable engineering education to Latinos/as/xs, researchers have drawn from research done by and for Latinos/as/xs to dismantle deficit ideologies. Borderlands theory, for example, asks us to question the ways in which the political, personal, and educational spheres are very much linked, how they impact education, and how these have institutionalized deficit ideologies. One of the elements of Borderlands Theory that can help engineering education researchers problematize these historical elements and its impact on Latinos/as/xs is the concept of Nepantla. In this presentation, we will explore – through the lens of Nepantla – how Latino/a/x engineering students negotiate social forces while living in two separate spaces in response to institutional prejudice. Nepantla suggests that individuals inhabit liminal spaces where clashes occur, new meanings are made, identities are born, and provides Latino/a/x engineering students with la facultad, or the ability to see in surface phenomena the deeper meaning of their engineering realities. This research provides a description of how “surface actions” create long-lasting impacts on engineering students. Implications of this study suggest that recognizing these actions and creating awareness may serve to help engineering educators identify the ways in which sociopolitical forces are (re)enacted, perpetuated, but also challenged in the classroom, in common spaces, and in research. 

Alex Mejia


Dr. Joel Alejandro (Alex) Mejia is an Associate Professor with joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering and the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies at The University of Texas at San Antonio. His research has contributed to the integration of critical theoretical frameworks in engineering education to investigate deficit ideologies and their impact on minoritized communities. His work seeks to analyze and describe the assets, tensions, contradictions, and cultural collisions many Latino/a/x students experience in engineering through testimonios. He is particularly interested in approaches that contribute to a more expansive understanding of engineering in sociocultural contexts, the impact of critical consciousness in engineering practice, and the development and implementation of culturally responsive pedagogies in engineering education. Dr. Mejia was awarded the NSF CAREER Award in 2020 to support his project titled “CAREER: Breaking the Tradition of Silence through Conocimiento and Consciousness Raising among Latinx Engineers.”