Cecilia Fernández has been named the assistant director of diversity, equity, inclusion and outreach for the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice, effective April 25.
Fernández came to Rice in 2020 as an assistant director of outreach and research for the R-STEM Engagement Office.
“I will be working closely with students and faculty, supporting inclusivity in the School of Engineering. I will also be connecting with the local Houston community, providing a connection to Rice and access to a good STEM education,” she said.
Fernández earned her B.S. in mathematics from MIT in 2005 and for two years taught high school math in her hometown, Fontana, Calif. Her parents were undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Her father is a mechanic and her mother a high school math teacher. The oldest of seven children, Fernández is the first in her family to attend college.
“I realized my background was very different from many of my peers at MIT,” she said. “I attended public schools and had a very different experience, with different expectations.”
She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, in Social Research Methodology, at UCLA, in 2008 and 2017, respectively. Fernández then worked for two years as a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Information at the University of Michigan.
At Rice, her research has focused on broadening STEM participation by studying the experiences of marginalized student populations.
“I’m interested in how people learn, specifically how they learn math and science and the other STEM fields,” she said. “I use mixed methods to investigate how community cultural practices, classroom practices and STEM disciplinary practices can intersect and support girls of color in their pursuit of STEM careers.”
In her new role, Fernández will report to Renata Ramos, the associate dean for academic affairs.