Maggie León-Corwin, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, studies human-environment interactions. Her research has covered environmental risk perceptions of oil and gas in Oklahoma and Colorado, and the impact of environmental pollution on vulnerable populations.
From south Texas, León-Corwin received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas State University, a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), before completing her doctorate in environmental sociology at Oklahoma State University in 2022.
At Texas State University, she was surrounded by a robust and active network of Hispanic-identifying individuals, an experience she describes as “profound in a way that I didn’t recognize at the time.”
As a teaching associate, León-Corwin would have students who told her she was the first instructor for which they could see themselves represented.
“I’d have a student come up to me and ask, ‘are you Latina?’ or ‘are you Mexican?’ and they’d tell me I was the first instructor they had who looked like them,” she said.
To León-Corwin, Hispanic Heritage Month provides an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the challenges and opportunities that exist, particularly in academia. An analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey done by The Education Trust, shows less than 6% of Latina women have received a graduate degree.
“Latinos make up something like 18% of the population, but less that 8% of all Ph.D.’s earned in 2020 were by Latinos,” she said. “There are real barriers to representation in academia Hispanic-identifying individuals face. Here, my boss is Hispanic. My boss’ boss is Hispanic. It’s really cool to see representation throughout the organization.”
Likewise, although partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions are important, León-Corwin cautions that “a lot of MSI’s don’t have the resources like lab space and other infrastructure.” Instead, OU and other R1 universities’ partnerships with MSI’s should “meaningfully involve students in projects to give them the experience of doing important and high impact research.”