Anthony Peguero

Beyond research and methodology: Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards recipient explores the holistic side of graduate mentorship

Hello Dr. Peguero! Could you please introduce yourself to our audience?

My name is Anthony Peguero; I’m a professor of sociology and criminology at the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University and the director of the Laboratory for the Study of Youth Inequality and Justice.

I was born in Spanish Harlem and raised all over New York City. I found myself doing this kind of research as a child of an immigrant. My mom is from Ecuador and my dad is from the Dominican Republic. I was about 16 and dropped out of school, but I was actually pushed out. The high school counselor suggested I should get a job; at the time, my mom was working two jobs and my dad was working three jobs. So, I went to work. As a family, we moved to Miami because we had family down there. After that move, as my family talks about it, I went back to school and never left since.

In New York, the high school I left was among the first to have gang tactical units. We are talking about a student high school population of 4,000, predominantly students of color. So, my work now is in educational inequality, school safety and racial and ethnic disparities within education, but also within the criminal legal and juvenile justice systems.

Please tell us about your academic and professional background.

I went to Florida International University, a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) with the highest graduation rate of Latino students nationwide. I got my PhD at the University of Miami, then a fellowship at Ohio State. I started my tenure track at Miami University-Ohio, then moved to Virginia Tech. Then I moved to ASU, which is now an HSI. One appealing thing about returning to an HSI is that I was not the first Latino in any position. In contrast, I was the first Latino professor in my department at Miami University and the first in my department at Virginia Tech.

Congratulations on being named an Outstanding Faculty Mentor! What does this award mean to you?

I appreciate the postdocs who nominated me and made an effort; I see this award as an effort to give back to the community that supported me. I appreciate the committee because I heard there were a lot of nominees. I’m grateful for the recognition from ASU and the Graduate College. I value my relationships with my mentees because we can do this together.

How did you become involved in mentorship?

I try to be of service to my community. Most of the time, I mentor and work with underrepresented students of color. I take that seriously. I’ve been very fortunate and privileged to be in spaces where I can inform policymakers and policies directly impacting communities of color and marginalized communities in juvenile justice or education about the criminal legal system.

The role that I have as a professor is to have more underrepresented scholars, academics and researchers engaged in social sciences, whether that be in that classroom or rooms with policymakers, so that there are more of us advocating using evidence-based research to address social problems and advance social progress and in our communities.

Mentorship is about producing research and moving our communities. But I also think a lot about the first-generation students I work with who don’t know how to navigate certain things; I hope to inform them how to navigate their profession to become successful and sustainable for themselves and their families. Because even as academics, as privileged as we are, there are still a lot of disparities and inequities, like when it comes to women of color and their salaries, the opportunities they have and underrepresentation in the broader areas of a given discipline. Having a community is good, but mentors can help you navigate, advocate for yourself and strengthen your position in your profession.

What are some of the approaches and methods you use in your mentoring?

Graduate school has many aspects: you must do the work and research, know the proper methodology and be a good scientist. So, that’s fundamental. But what is equally essential is recognizing why you wanted to do this because it will get more challenging. You’ll stay up late trying to finish a dissertation, collecting research, etc. 

When talking to students of color and young people, our work is potentially triggering and re-traumatizing. I’m reminded that a lot of things have not gotten better. My job is acting as an early career mentor. I am aware of my male privilege as an academic and how this institution supports and facilitates my success. Being a woman of color going through this same career faces an entirely different set of challenges and barriers. My job is to recognize there are limits to what I can advise, but I have an extensive group of diverse colleagues who can also be mentors. You can be a healthy human being and be a good scientist, and my role as a mentor is to instill that.

What organizations or individuals outside of ASU do you network with?

I got my fellowship within the Racial Democracy, Crime and Justice Network, mainly centered on crime and justice research and racial and ethnic inequality. I am part of this Latina/o/x criminology group as well.

What does it mean to be a scholar, holistically speaking?

The Graduate College is doing an excellent job of facilitating the success of graduate students by supporting and encouraging them with things like networking, having a solid CV, etc. The Graduate College professional development workshops help establish these soft skills necessary for a successful career.

The Graduate College is dedicated to professional development and believes mentorship is a necessary foundation in academic growth and career development. 

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Marjani Hawkins