Jesica Siham Fernández is the author of the forthcoming book, Growing Up Latinx: Coming of Age in a Time of Contested Citizenship (New York University Press). As a transdisciplinary scholar, Jesica's book explores the lives of Latinx youth as they grapple with their social and political identities from an early age in an increasingly hostile political climate that shapes their school, family, and community experiences of belonging. With a compassionate eye, she shows us how Latinx youth strive to identify, and ultimately redefine, what it means to come of age―and fight for their rights―in a country that does not always recognize them. Growing Up Latinx invites readers to witness the inspiring power of youth as they develop and make their political voices heard, thereby expanding meanings and representations of citizenship in the United States.
Trained as a social-community psychologist, Jesica completed her Ph.D. in social psychology with an emphasis in Latin American and Latino studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. As a community-engaged researcher, her scholarship is informed by a decolonial feminist praxis. Through a community-based participatory action research (PAR) paradigm―grounded in feminist epistemologies, Critical Race and LatCrit theories, and decolonial methodologies, such as testimonio―Jesica engages with communities to identify systemic problems affecting their lives, determine actions to address these conditions, and facilitate structural change. In this way, Jesica collaborates with student activists on-campus, youth in education settings and community organizing spaces, as well as with Latinx immigrant women in the Greater Silicon Valley, to cultivate sociopolitical wellbeing and community thriving grounded in transformative justice and liberation. Together, these experiences and values form the foundation for her research on sociopolitical citizenship embodiments within the context of activism, organizing, and community-engaged participatory action research collaborations.
Jesica's scholarship has been featured in top-tier psychology journals, such as the American Journal of Community Psychology, Review of General Psychology and the Journal of Social Issues. Additionally, she has published in multidisciplinary journals such as Latino Studies, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, and Qualitative Inquiry. In addition to her journal publication, she has contributed several chapters to edited book volumes in the area of critical youth studies, as well as the discipline of liberation psychology. Jesica’s ongoing scholarship contributes to the growth of critical community psychology through the transnational project on the Roots & Routes of Decolonial Discourse in Community Psychology. And, also through her critical participatory action research collaborations, especially with youth, via the Youth for Justice Project. Some of Jesica research has been featured in public media, such as the KQED Mind/Shift Podcast, and the Center of Arts & Humanities Blog.
As a teacher-learner, Jesica approaches the classroom with humility and radical hope, and a praxis of/for and toward decolonial/decolonizing liberation and a spiritual activism, or ethic of love, that strives to cultivate critically compassionate learning communities in the classroom space for relational reflexive dialogues, re/humanizing encounters/connections, and radical imagination/dreaming toward action and justice. In the words of bell hooks:
“The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy. … Urging all of us to open our minds and hearts so that we can know beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable, so that we can think and rethink, so that we can create new visions. I celebrate teaching that enables transgressions―a movement against and beyond boundaries. It is that movement which makes education the practice of freedom.” - Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, 1994, p. 12
In recognition of her teaching and pedagogy, Jesica was awarded the Dr. John B. Drahmann Advising Award by the College of Arts & Sciences for "having established among colleagues and students a well-deserved reputation for extraordinary dedication to student welfare through wise, informed, effective, and caring counsel, and having demonstrated the ability to motivate other teachers and learners." Her pedagogy is deeply interconnected with her activist-scholarship, and the opportunities she fosters to support students as producers and holders of knowledge-research skill-collective power.