Professor, farmworker rights advocate Armando Ibarra receives distinguished alumni award

Armando Ibarra headshot

For his leadership and scholarship in labor rights, family advocacy and education of worker communities in the agricultural and food processing industries, Professor Armando Ibarra will be honored in March as a 2023 Distinguished Alumnus by California State University Chico.

“We congratulate Dr. Ibarra on this honor and are privileged to have him contribute ongoing knowledge and understanding of worker communities through his work at the University of Wisconsin–Madison,” says Jeffrey Russell, vice provost for lifelong learning and dean of UW Continuing Studies. “His work epitomizes the Wisconsin Idea of taking university knowledge into communities and beyond that, listening and learning from communities to better our state for all people.”

Ibarra joined the faculty of the School for Workers faculty in January 2011, then a part of UW-Extension and now housed in the Division of Continuing Studies. He’s also taught for the UW–Madison Chican@ & Latin@ Studies program since 2011 and held the director position there from July 1, 2018, to June 31, 2021. His research and fields of specialization are working communities of Latin American descent in the U.S. and beyond, social movements, community development, international labor migration and community-based participatory applied and action research.

The life lessons from his experiences as an immigrant, seasonal farm worker, first-generation college student and labor organizer continue to influence his professional approach and worldview.

“Being able to keep center to my profession the experience as a working-class immigrant farmworker growing up in rural Northern California is something I keep true and dear to my heart,” Ibarra says. “Fast forward 30, 40 years later, what we see here in the Midwest is that working people in the agriculture and food processing industry face many of the same challenges as I saw growing up in Northern California.”

Ibarra approaches his work through community-based research, producing knowledge democratically and partnering with communities. He’s a founding member of Voces de la Frontera’s Essential Workers Rights Network and codirected an important study called Voices of Wisconsin Workers – A Community Engaged Study of Essential Workers During the Pandemic. Ibarra also developed a curriculum that teaches essential workers workplace safety, COVID-19 mitigation, immigrant and worker rights and leadership development.

“There’s a lot to be done in terms of elevating the voices of workers, especially food processing workers or agricultural workers, and actually giving these folks the placement in American society they deserve,” Ibarra says. “These communities truly are the anchors of American society and need to be seen in that light.”

Chico State will honor distinguished alumni at the 28th annual Distinguished Alumni Awards program on March 3, 2023, in Chico, California.