About María Chávez

Dr. Maria Chávez is Associate Professor of Political Science at Pacific Lutheran University specializing in American government, public policy, and race and politics. She is currently serving as Department Chair.

Born in Northern California the eldest of four children, Dr. Chávez is the first person in her family to have graduated from college.  Professor Chávez earned her B.A. cum laude from California State University, Chico College of Social Science in 1992, her M.A. (with distinction) California State University, Chico in Political Science 1995, and her Ph.D. in Political Science from Washington State University in 2002.  Prior to her academic post at Pacific Lutheran University, Prof. Chávez held assistant professorships in political science at Boise State University and at Seattle University.

Dr. Chávez’s work centers on the progress and barriers of Latinos in American society. Specifically, her research is focused on the political and social incorporation of Latinos in various locations and circumstances ranging from vulnerable undocumented Latinos living in the shadows to successful Latino professionals. She has published peer-reviewed articles in the American Bar Association (October 2011), Social Science Quarterly, Latino Studies, Bar News, and three book chapters, published in Governing Washington: Politics and Government in the Evergreen State, 2nd Edition: (Washington State University Press. 2011), Black and Latina/o Politics: Issues in Political Development in the United States (Barnhardt and Ashe-2005) and Latinos and Political Participation in the New Millennium (ABC-CLIO-2004). She blogs for Racism Review having been a regular contributor since 2010 with thirty-two blogs to date. Dr. Chávez has also published editorials about immigration in local newspapers including in the Seattle Times and The News Tribune.

Dr. María Chávez
Dr. María Chávez

She is author of two books. The first, Everyday Injustice: Latino Professionals and Racism (Rowman and Littlefield, Inc. 2011), won the prestigious American Political Science Association’s Latino Caucus Best Book Award in Latino Politics published in 2011. Her book examines Latino lawyers’ connection to their profession and community, weaving interviews, survey research, and focus groups. The book examines racial framing in America, the role of language and culture among Latino professionals, Latinos in the workplace, their level of civic participation, the challenges faced by Latinas, and the important role of education in improving the lives of all Latinos. Dr. Chávez’s second book, with coauthors Dr. Jessica Lavariega Monforti and Dr. Melissa Michelson is titled: Living the Dream—New Immigration Policies and the Lives of  Undocumented Latino Youth. It investigates the political, civic, and social experiences of undocumented youth who grew up in the United States.

Dr. Chávez is currently working on her third book on Latinos and public policy (contract with Routledge forthcoming in 2018). It is an auto-ethnographic account that blends her story with interview data from 31 other Latinos from across the country from similar socio-economic backgrounds and analyzes the role that public policies and mentors played in their upward mobility.

Dr. Chávez’s teaches classes in Public Policy, American Government, State and Local Government, Race and Ethnic Politics, and Latino Politics.

Among her academic laurels, Dr. Chavez was awarded the American Political Science Association’s Centennial Grant Award in 2016 and APSA’s Small Research Grant Award in 2015. She received the K.T. Tang Faculty Excellence Award in Research at PLU in 2011. She has served as a fellow for the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute. She has also received grants from APSA’s Fund for Latino Scholarship Award and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.  She was the recipient of the Washington State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Award for her research on Latino lawyers.