Research News

Leyva awarded NAEd/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship

(Steve Green/Vanderbilt University)

Luis A. Leyva, assistant professor of mathematics education at Vanderbilt Peabody College of education and human development, has been awarded a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for his research “Queer of Color: Counter-stories from Engineering, Computing, and Mathematical Science Majors.”

The fellowship program supports professional development for early-career researchers whose projects address critical issues in the history, theory or practice of formal or informal education at the national and international levels. The NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship provides $70,000 to early-career scholars to focus on their research and attend professional development retreats. This year, 30 postdoctoral fellows were selected from a pool of 221 applicants.

“My fellowship project documents queer Black and Latinx undergraduate students’ narratives of intersectional oppression and resistance, or queer of color counter-stories, in navigating racialized and heterosexist educational spaces as engineering, computing, and mathematical science majors,” said Leyva. “These counter-stories will shed light on how classroom instruction and co-curricular support spaces affirm and disaffirm students’ queer of color identities, in addition to coping strategies for protecting their identities and persisting in ECM science majors.

“This yearlong project across historically white and minority-serving universities will yield multi-institutional insights to inform instruction and student support practices that embrace queer Black and Latinx students’ full humanities while nurturing their academic pursuits in STEM higher education,” he said.

Leyva, who came to Vanderbilt in 2016, is the director of the PRISM (Power, Resistance & Identity in STEM Education) Research Lab at Peabody College. The lab’s research holds an “intersectional prism” up to historically marginalized populations’ narratives of experience to both illuminate and disrupt multidimensional forms of oppression in undergraduate STEM education. He is a member of the Vanderbilt LGBT Policy Lab, one of six interdisciplinary programs awarded funding from the university’s Trans-Institutional Programs (TIPs) initiative for 2020. Leyva has served for multiple years as the faculty facilitator for LatinQ, an affinity group through the Office of LGBTQI Life at Vanderbilt that brings together queer Latinx members of the university community to share resources, build community, and further explore intersectional identities.

Leyva was named a 2016 Dissertation Fellow by the NAEd/Spencer Foundation and recipient of the 2018 Early Career Publication Award from the Research in Mathematics Education special interest group of the American Educational Research Association. He has been awarded two multiyear grants from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Undergraduate Education as well as two research fellowships from the Mindset Scholars Network (New Venture Fund/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and Women of Color in Computing Collaborative (Kapor Center/Center for Gender Equity in Science & Technology). His research has been published in the Harvard Educational Review, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, and Journal of Urban Mathematics Education.

Prior to joining the Peabody faculty, Leyva was certified as a K–12 mathematics teacher in New Jersey and recognized with the 2011 Distinguished Student Teacher of Year Award by the New Jersey Department of Education. His professional experience includes six years in higher education programs, including the National Science Foundation STEP living-learning communities and the Upward Bound Math-Science summer bridge program, designed to increase STEM retention and success among historically underrepresented groups. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics as well as master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics education from Rutgers University.