Photography: Anne Bannister

Julissa Muñiz, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the department of education, with affiliation to the Chicano Studies Research Center, at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research focuses on teaching, learning, and identity development in the carceral context, specifically juvenile court schools, with an interest in better understanding how incarcerated students both live and learn while confined. Importantly, her work explores questions of race and racism, power and privilege, racial and ethnic identity development, institutional logics, and abolition at the intersections of the U.S. public education, criminal legal and juvenile legal systems. Given the interdisciplinarity of her research, Julissa draws on a range of theories and concepts from various fields including education, human development, psychology, and critical carceral studies to better understand how we can best support young people navigating the carceral continuum towards liberatory futures.

Most recently, Dr. Muñiz and her colleague, Dr. Erica Salinas Thomas, have also been developing an interrelated strand of research focused on Latinx families and their experiences with criminal legal systems in Central Texas. In 2022, Drs. Muñiz and Salinas Thomas received the Vice Provost for Diversity Pathway to Research and Scholarship Independence Grant from the University of Texas at Austin to fund their pilot study, Latinx Familias, Safety, and the Criminal Legal System, which explores issues related to policing, immigration, school safety, incarceration, and Latinidad in Texas.

Additionally, Dr. Muñiz holds an Ed.M. in Prevention Science and Practice from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a M.A. in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University, and a B.A. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. As a graduate student at Northwestern University, she received funding for her doctoral studies and dissertation research from the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, the University of Texas Austin Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the Social Science Research Council, The Graduate School, the Northwestern Buffett Institute, and the Northwestern Program of African Studies.

Dr. Muñiz is a proud first-generation borderlands scholar from San Ysidro, California. In 2021 with the support of her community and former classmates, she founded the San Ysidro Rising Scholar Award, a scholarship and mentorship program that supports first-generation college students who graduated from her alma mater–San Ysidro High School. Prior to graduate school, Dr. Muñiz served as a middle school academic counselor for TRIO Talent Search in Oakland, California, and GED co-instructor for the Adult Peer Education Project at San Quentin State Prison. While at the University of Texas at Austin, she also served as the Director of Pedagogy and Practice and taught college courses for the Texas Prison Education Initiative.