Denisa Gándara is assistant professor of higher education at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She is the recipient of the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, the American Educational Research Association's Dissertation Travel Award, and the Zell and Shirley Miller Graduate Fellowship. Gándara was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. She earned her bachelor’s degrees (in Philosophy and Spanish) from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was selected as one of 12 Dean’s Distinguished Graduates in the College of Liberal Arts. Prior to pursuing graduate studies, she served as coordinator for the UT Chapter of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, worked for college readiness programs, and interned in the office of a U.S. Congressman and in the Texas Senate Higher Education Committee. Currently, her research agenda explores state-level higher education policy formulation processes and impacts, especially on populations traditionally underserved in higher education. Her current work on the development of higher education finance policies focuses on: (1) social networks within policy development processes and what they suggest about (under)representation in higher education policymaking and (2) the types, quality, sources, and flows of information acquired and used in policy formulation.
Gandara recently received two prestigious honors while writing her dissertation. She was one of 33 students nationally awarded a 2015 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, and she was also one of nine students receiving support from a minority dissertation fellowship program of the American Educational Research Association.
The Ford Foundation fellowships are given to individuals who have demonstrated superior academic achievement, are committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level, show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.