Welcome, New Faculty!

In August, we welcomed two new faculty members to the Department of Sociology: Dr. Vanessa Delgado and Dr. Steven Meija.

New faculty members, Vanessa Delgado and Steven Meija, posing with Butch, the WSU mascot.

Vanessa Delgado smiling at the camera.
Vanessa Delgado.

Vanessa Delgado

Vanessa Delgado earned her PhD from the University of California, Irvine in 2022, and works in the areas of immigration, youth, family, education, and Latino/a/x studies. Her research has been published in journals such as Sociology Compass, Journal of Marriage and Family, and Socius. 

Tom: Vanessa, welcome to Sociology News. Tell us about your journey into sociology.  

Vanessa: I was an undergrad at WSU from 2011 to 2015 and my introduction to sociology was through Lisa McIntyre, actually. I took the 101 class with her. What I learned in 101 was very relevant to my life, especially being a first-generation college student and the first in my family to graduate high school. I’m from the Tri-cities area where very few students of color go off to college, and I was one of very few students of color in my WSU classrooms.

I had experienced things about sociology, but I never had the language of what sociology was. For me, the introduction to sociology, and the 101 course in particular, allowed me to connect the things that I’d seen but I didn’t know you could study or that could be a topic of academic discussions. For me, sociology was the study of inequality and I saw my own experiences reflected in the discipline. But I also saw gaps. For example, as an undergraduate, I didn’t see much about immigrant families, which is where I come from and something that I now study. While sociology allowed me to connect to several things that were going on in my life, I still felt that there was a significant gap and that I could contribute to the scholarship.  

I’m excited to return to WSU Pullman. I think that there are still a lot of gaps in terms of understanding people’s experiences in Washington.  A variety of research topics have been percolating in my head—projects around rural sociology, immigration, questions about the transition to adulthood for children of immigrants and immigrant families growing up in rural America. It’s a very fertile area for research.

Tom: Tell us about your research.  

Vanessa: My work right now focuses on how adult children of immigrants both facilitate and challenge their parents’ integration into the U.S.

For example, children of immigrants often help their parents by translating. They can translate in a whole host of different settings—documents, paperwork that comes to the house by mail, grocery stores, medical offices, and so forth. I look at how they continue doing that sort of translation, or cultural bridging, into adulthood and how they balance societal expectations of being independent and going off to college and their family obligations. I also look at it across immigration status.   

In the book project that I’m working on right now I compare three different immigrant family types, how their labor compares across the board, and the ways in which it’s consequential, based on their immigration status. 

For example, those who have undocumented parents have to worry about translating things correctly, making sure that they’re not positioning their parents to be deported or face repercussions with immigration enforcement. There’s a lot more on their minds compared to those that are citizens with citizen parents.  

Looking forward, I’m interested in the question of what does it mean to come of age in rural America? What do the trajectories into adulthood of young people in high school with different backgrounds look like? What are the reasons that they end up where they end up? A lot of the transition to adulthood literature tends to focus on folks in urban locations and predominantly people going to college and people that are already in college. I think it would be very interesting to examine what it looks like to come of age in rural America for people with different racial demographics. Those that come from immigrant families and those that don’t come from immigrant families, are their experiences the same?  I think it would be interesting to conduct a qualitative study that follows young people as they transition into adulthood.  

Shekinah: How would you describe your mentorship style, especially for graduate students? 

Vanessa: I would say student-focused. I see myself supporting students, whatever their goals and aspirations are. I understand that folks have different aspirations with what they want to do with the PhD. I want to be fully supportive of that. 

Shekinah: What advice would you give first-generation graduate students when they’re just starting out? 

Vanessa: Meet with your professors one-to-one and make connections with faculty and within your cohort. Connecting with the individuals that you’re coming in with is so important, because it really builds community with others who are going through the same situations. For first-generation students, there may be many things that are unclear and different, and this is okay and normal. But the way to get past that is making those connections with faculty members and graduate students. I find that people are willing to help, especially if you put yourself out there. 

Shekinah: What do you like to do outside of work? What makes you happy and sparks joy?  

I plan to take advantage of the hiking in the Northwest and explore the different parks—Banff and Glacier National Park are only a few hours away—that offer interesting outdoor experiences. Also, I enjoy spending time with my family. I’m really looking forward to having the different change of scenery.

Steven Mejia smiling at the camera.
Steven Mejia.

Steven Mejia

Steven Mejia earned his PhD in sociology from the University of California, Irvine. He conducts research in the areas of global and transnational sociology and world society. His work has been published in journals such as Sociological Perspectives, Social Science Quarterly, International Journal of Sociology, and Sociological Forum

 Tom: Welcome to Sociology News. Please tell us about yourself. 

Steven: I was born and raised in Southern California. I’m a proud community college product and the first person in my family to go to college. I went to Ventura College.

Tom: Where did your interest in sociology come from?   

Steven: I took some sociology courses while I was at community college in my hometown in California and transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles for my bachelor’s degree. I gravitated towards sociology’s intellectual curiosity about everything around us. My intellectual interest really sparked upon arriving at UCLA where I crossed paths with a faculty member who would be one of my mentors, Dr. Evan Schofer. He brought me into the scholarly conversations that were occurring in global and transnational sociology, such as the impact of economic globalization and how the world society is impacting nation states and individuals.  

When I started graduate school at UC Irvine, Dr. Schofer provided strong, friendly, and encouraging mentorship and advising that helped me thrive. Initially, I didn’t have the cultural or social capital to thrive in graduate school. Micro-level experiences that on the surface might not seem like much— like Dr. Schofer helping me with statistics—but for a first-generation student like me had dramatic implications. Those individual experiences were instrumental in my trajectory at UC Irvine, and I want to pay it forward at WSU. 

Tom: What sparked your interest in attending graduate school? 

Steven: The first day I transferred to UCLA, keeping in mind my background as a first-generation college student, I knew I wanted to go graduate school and earn my PhD, but I didn’t know how to get there. I was on a mission to do everything I possibly could to get into graduate school. I knocked on doors and built relationships with faculty. I needed to ask for help.  

Some of the courses that I took as an undergraduate sparked my intellectual curiosity, such as social theory and political theory. I started graduate school thinking I was going to study mass incarceration, but soon I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to study.  

Tom:  Please tell us a little bit more about your research and where you hope to take that research at WSU.  

Steven: My research focuses on global and transnational sociology and economic globalization. Much of my research, thus far, seeks to understand how numerous forms of economic globalization are impacting various social, demographic, economic, and environmental outcomes. Many centuries ago, in feudalism and so forth, the production of goods and services was typically within a country. But these days, the production of goods and services occurs throughout the world. My research seeks to understand how processes such as the inflow of foreign direct investment, international trade, and issues like foreign credit, impact countries within the Global South. For example, how production affects the environment, social welfare, and outcomes like infant mortality, economic growth, and so forth. 

Now I’m starting to engage in what is called world society research. One project I’m excited to work on seeks to explain the worldwide expansion of legislation protecting and empowering women. I’m working on this project with Dr. Wade Cole at the University of Utah. There’s been a dramatic increase in, for example, equal pay laws and legislation prohibiting domestic violence, at the country level. Dr. Cole and I are trying to understand what’s behind the dramatic expansion of these types of legislation and are theorizing how world societies might help us understand these trends. Another analysis I’m excited to work on is explaining the expansion of higher education enrollments. Higher education enrollments have been expanding dramatically since the 1970s. There are many theoretical arguments made to explain that expansion, and the analysis that I’m working on is trying to provide an additional explanation for this expansion. 

Shekinah: How would you describe your mentorship style? 

Steven: First, I want students to be happy. I want to help students be mindful of work-life balance. Keeping your focus on your well-being and happiness is the foundation for doing the best work that you can.  

I also envision helping students reach their goals, whatever they may be. For example, if one of my students wants to go into industry, I’m completely supportive of that. I don’t have experience with industry, but I’ll try to help as much as I can, like connecting my students to peers that went the industry route or doing some of my own research to help students with these goals. For students that want to pursue a career at a research university, I want to be supportive of them, too. Still the same note of helping my students reach their goals and meeting my students wherever they’re at. I know what it felt like to have a very supportive mentor and I want to help my students in that way. 

Shekinah: What piece of advice would you give first-generation graduate students? 

Steven: I have so much to say on this topic, but I’ll boil it down to two points: focus on what you can control and be the best version of you that you can be. Saying something like “I want to be the best in the field” is comparing yourself to others. Eliminate the comparisons and just focus on being the best version of yourself that you can be. 

I am in academia because I want to be. We do this type of work because we want to do it and students interested in academia should do it for themselves, too. Don’t do it for the publications. Don’t do it to impress your advisor or impress someone else. Do it for yourself, because you’re intellectually interested, and you want to do this type of work.  

Shekinah: What do you like to do outside of work? 

Steven: When I am home, I like playing video games and watching good movies.  I look forward to taking advantage of all the activities that the Palouse has to offer, like the outdoor activities, or I might have a little garden. The Palouse is a beautiful part of the country.