Vianney A. Gavilanes

Vianney A. Gavilanes is a doctoral candidate in the Critical Studies of Race, Class and Gender. As a self-identified Mexican migrant child educated in California’s public K-12 schools and universities, she is committed to serving racially and linguistically minoritized students like herself for whom English has been a site of linguistic violence and political struggle.

As an interdisciplinary scholar of education, Vianney draws on (im)migration, critical refugee studies and language politics to engage in theoretically robust research that disrupts the objectifying study of (im)migrant and refugee youth. Her foci include processes of racialization and differentiation of other-than-white (im)migrant youth within educational contexts, the co-naturalization of language and race in relation to (im)migration (forced and volitional), and a (re)imagining of liberatory futurities through a praxis of critical dialogue. Vianney’s dissertation, Educational (Im)possibilities: Newcomer Students and Benevolent Imperialism, analyzes the entanglements between the promise of a good American life, the liberal mission of education, and benevolent forms of empire as experienced in a California public high school and its newcomer program.

At UC Berkeley, Vianney supported first-generation college students of color in their pursuit of graduate and professional degrees in her capacity as mentor in the Femtor/Mentor Colectiva, the Chicanx Latinx Student Development Office, and Getting into Graduate School. As a first-generation student of color, Vianney intimately understands the urgency for mentors to help first-generation college students navigate the university system and its culture of meritocracy. However, her most rewarding involvement with efforts to expand access to higher education has been her time with Undocugrads, a student group that advocates for the needs of undocumented graduate students on campus. As a result of years of activism, the group was able to achieve the creation of an administrative position to exclusively address the needs of undocumented graduate students—a sorely needed institutional support.

As a critical feminist pedagogue, Vianney views the classroom as a potentially radical space wherein students and the instructor can co-create liberatory futurities through critical dialogue. Informed by her lived experience at the intersection of various social margins, she engages students in the classroom as dynamically complex and wholly embodied selves. Her teaching practice relies on a pedagogy of love that not only humanizes both the teacher and the student but also beckons them to make commitments to each other’s liberation. Vianney intends to continue her scholar activism as a university professor.

Specializations and Interests

U.S. (im)migration discourse; race and education; knowledge production; critical pedagogy; language ideologies

portrait image of doctoral candidate vianney gavilanes


MA, Education, Social and Cultural Studies, UC Berkeley
BA, Sociology, UC Santa Cruz

Curriculum Vitae