ASU faculty member to focus on Día de los Muertos research as part of fellowship

Portrait of ASU faculty member Mathew Sandoval.

Mathew Sandoval, Honors Faculty Fellow in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.


Mathew Sandoval, Honors Faculty Fellow in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, recently was awarded a Faculty Fellowship with ASU’s Social Transformation Lab.

Sandoval is among the lab’s faculty fellows for the 2022-2023 academic year, which also includes Angie Bautista-Chavez, Ersula J. Ore and Jerome Clark.

“I’m incredibly honored to be one of the lab’s 2022-2023 cohort of fellows,” Sandoval said. “This is a golden opportunity to work with a dope group of scholar-artist-activists to translate our ideas and expertise into solutions for transforming our community, our university and society more generally.”

The Social Transformation Lab is an ASU Office of the President initiative overseen by Mako Ward, assistant professor of African American studies and women and gender studies at the School of Social Transformation, and Bryan Brayboy, President’s Professor in the School of Social Transformation and vice president of social advancement.

According to Ward, director of ASU’s Social Transformation Lab, Sandoval was selected because, “his research, teaching and creative work embody the spirit of the university’s strivings toward inclusive scholarship of public value. This contributes to innovative knowledge production while advancing the university’s charter.”

Sandoval has spent the last several years using his teaching and service to address issues of racism. He organizes and facilitates the honors college's annual Juneteenth dialogue, and teaches the honors seminars “Race and Performance” and “Race and Identity in U.S. Cinema.” 

He also organizes the “Race & Revolution” film series for the Majestic movie theaters as a way to lead community dialogues about race and social change. Sandoval previously served as the Faculty Fellow for ASU’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy.

“Social change isn’t a side hustle for me. Working on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion are at the heart of what I do and who I am,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval recently was recognized for his work in this area with the 2022 Sangre de Arte award from the ASU Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association. The award recognizes an individual who exemplifies “passion for creatively affecting their community through the arts, mentorship of Chicano/Latino students and leadership within ASU or the community.”

Sandoval plans to use his Social Transformation Lab fellowship to continue work on his research of the cultural history of Día de los Muertos, a holiday celebrated mostly in Mexico to remember and honor loved ones who have died.  

“My intention is to finish writing the final chapter of my book, which is about how Day of the Dead has developed into a global pop culture phenomenon over the past decade,” Sandoval said. 

“Social media and the pandemic have really transformed Day of the Dead in profound ways in the past few years. I’m trying to make sense of what all these transformations mean for the holiday, what they mean for the individuals and communities that celebrate Day of the Dead, and what they mean for Chicano/Latino culture more generally.” 

Sandoval and the other fellows will present their work in a university symposium at the end of the academic year.

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