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Continuing Studies welcomes Dr. Nidia Bañuelos to faculty

Nidia Banuelos

UW–Madison Continuing Studies is pleased to welcome Dr. Nidia Bañuelos to our faculty this fall. After successfully completing her Anna Julia Cooper postdoctoral fellowship last year, she begins her position as an assistant professor of adult, continuing and higher education in our department of Liberal Arts & Applied Studies. Below she shares a bit about her background, field of research and what she wants students to take away from her classes.

Hometown: West Lafayette, IN

Educational/professional background: I have my BA from Stanford and my PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago. I’m also a former librarian. Previously, I was a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Education, University of California, Davis.

How did you get into your field of research? 

I study the vocationally oriented postsecondary institutions that educate the most college students each year, including community colleges and for-profit colleges and universities. My parents changed our family’s trajectory by going to community college and transferring to public universities. For this reason, I’ve always been interested in those schools that provide (or claim to provide) pathways out of poverty. I’m also hoping to learn more about how large public universities like UW–Madison can better support working students with family responsibilities.

What attracted you to UW–Madison? 

I really wanted to come back to the Midwest! Being at a great Midwestern university where people are doing interesting and important work on education is a real privilege.

This fall, you begin your position as an Assistant Professor of Adult, Continuing and Higher Education. Tell us about what you’ll be doing in this role and what excites you most about this position. 

Like a lot of faculty members, I’ll be teaching and developing my research program. One thing I really like about my position is that I’m encouraged to produce research that directly informs educational policy and practice and to share this research broadly. This fall, colleagues from UCLA, UC Davis and I will be presenting our work on the community college baccalaureate to California policymakers and other educational leaders. Similarly, my co-author, Dr. Ross Benbow (from UW–Madison’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research), and I will give a group of university administrators preliminary results from our study of Latina/o students and the assets they use in their career development.

While I enjoy writing articles aimed at other scholars, I also find it really useful to share ideas with decision-makers who directly impact students’ lives.

Last year, while finishing your post-doc, you also spent time as a writing tutor in the UW Odyssey Project. Tell us about your experience and other plans you have for working with Odyssey in the future.

As an Odyssey writing tutor, I often worked with one student, in particular. We had a great dynamic and were able to get a lot done each session. Working with her was really fun — she’s incredibly smart and ambitious, so I always left our sessions feeling energized and inspired to work harder on my own projects. She also has different areas of expertise than I do, so I was able to ask her advice on a project I was thinking of taking on. I’ve been able to talk to her a couple of times this summer, too, which is a testament to the fact that Odyssey students stay connected to the program even after graduating.

In the spring, I’m planning to teach a Sociology course for Onward Odyssey that will allow students to get social sciences and ethnic studies credits.

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with? 

I want them to know that faculty work for them and that they are entitled to ask us for certain things (even if we end up saying “no”). I like to give my students a chance to “practice” talking to a professor, especially if they have little experience with college and/or find faculty intimidating. This means they can come to office hours and talk about anything or nothing at all. Since I teach education courses, these non-topical conversations are very relevant – they’re working on building a new kind of social and cultural capital.

Hobbies/other interests: I like singing and playing music with my family. I play the accordion and my partner plays the guitar. Our kids play anything they can whack with a stick.

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