Joanna E. Sanchez-Avila

Joanna came to the University of Arizona as a Sally Casanova California Pre-Doctoral Scholar from California State University, Long Beach to work with Dr. Adela C. Licona and the Crossroads Collaborative. She is presently involved with numerous community-based organizations around the United States and she is now continuing her journey as a doctoral student at the University of Arizona in the Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English (RCTE) program.  Here, Joanna will research narrative, cultural memory, feminist pedagogy, body politics, identity, and public policy.

Joanna says that joining the Crossroads team encouraged her to become involved with myriad activities. As a Crossroads intern, she became motivated to continue exploring and enhancing her own interests in rhetoric and feminist issues in her home state of California. She did this by finding ways of bridging processes between community and academia. Thus, she has recently been engaged in volunteer work with two organizations.

The first of these organizations is Centro Latino for Literacy. Joanna spent eight months as a literacy tutor for the Leamos™ (Let’s Read) course- a mouse driven, online literacy course that teaches non-literate Spanish-speaking adults how to read and write. As a literacy tutor, Joanna continues to develop her professional, pedagogical, and community relations, skills and abilities, as well as her political interests. In addition, Joanna joined California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ) to contribute to the Latinas Empowered for Action (LEA) extension program. As a LEA Advisory Committee member, she explored CLRJ’s commitments to civic engagement through community education and policy advocacy. For example, she went to Sacramento to lobby for bills that impacted the intersecting identities and situational statuses of people—in particular people of color.

Working with predominantly undocumented adult learners in the literacy classroom motivated Joanna to exude her confidence to lobby 

and be courageous like her students. In acknowledging her privilege and access, she always reminds herself that she was not a savior of persons like the students she worked with, but rather a shared learner who is passionate for the well being of members in her communities. Joanna’s experiences helped her recognize the invaluable significance of narrative and story telling. “Speaking Story” an on-going project by CLRJ, which focuses on reproductive health narratives, reminds her of the youth she interviewed for her project on identity with Kore Press. Both of these projects served as proof of how important story telling is and how it can impact public policy, individuals’ hopefulness, and the act of testimony as a tool of lived experiential validation.

Adela C. Licona, associate professor of RCTE, says, “Joanna is already practicing scholar activism as she works to connect deep inquiry and analysis to action and she so clearly values the power, promise, and transformative potential of everyday stories. I am honored that she sought me out for her pre-doctoral fellowship and am certain that in our summer work together I learned as much from her as she did from me.”

Joanna says, “Each one of us has something valuable to contribute to the ever-growing social fabric recording our humanity with all its flaws, chaos, and beauty.”


College of Social and Behavioral Sciences