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Dr. Manuel Barrera Jr. Memorial Scholarship honors professor, helps 1st-generation students


Headshot of Manual Barrrera in black and white.

Manuel Barrera Jr. was a professor of clinical psychology at ASU from 1977 to 2017. Photo courtesy Barrera family

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June 01, 2023

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University is offering a new scholarship for first-generation graduate students in the natural sciences division.

The Dr. Manuel Barrera Jr. Memorial Scholarship honors the ASU professor, who dedicated decades to research and educating students in the Department of Psychology at The College.

“Dr. Manuel Barrera Jr. was a professor of clinical psychology at ASU from August 1977 to May 2017. In his 40-year career with the Department of Psychology, his areas of interest and research were community psychology and social support networks. He received various honors and awards during his career, including ASU Graduate Mentor of the Year and Psychology Department Professor of the Year,” according to a statement from the Barrera family.

“He advocated for underrepresented communities in public education and their inclusion in institutions of higher learning. To honor his legacy, his wife, Aurelia, and his daughter, Lea, established this scholarship. In partnership with the ASU Foundation, the scholarship seeks to open doors, create opportunities and celebrate the abilities of everyone.”

The scholarship will support students registered with the Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services office who demonstrate an interest in service to the community.

About Barrera Jr.

Barrera, a Racine, Wisconsin, native, developed a love for writing and science at an early age. 

He learned to incorporate his passions into scientific studies and research in psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in psychology in 1971.

Barrera then attended the University of Oregon and received his master’s degree in 1975 and his doctorate in 1977. That same year, he was offered a job as a professor of clinical psychology at ASU.

As a professor, Barrera researched prevention and behavioral treatments for Type 2 diabetes, social support and behavioral health interventions for Latino families.

He also served in various roles with the Hispanic Research Center, the Office of Hispanic Research and other university-wide initiatives.

Barrera strived to expand diversity and inclusion in public education, stressing the importance of access to higher learning.

“(Manuel) was committed to providing higher education to everyone,” Aurelia Barrera said. “Especially those in public school, since both of us grew up in the public school system and he used that education and support to achieve everything he did academically.”

During his tenure, he was recognized for his contributions, including the ASU Psi Chi Outstanding Undergraduate Instructor Award, the ASU Outstanding Mentoring Award and the Psychology Department Faculty of the Year Award.

Barrera was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1987. However, he was determined not to be defined by his medical condition but by his contributions at ASU.

He retired in June 2017 and passed away in March 2020 at 70 years old.

“Dr. Manuel Barrera Jr. was a beloved, respected and admired member of the ASU community. We are proud to have the Dr. Manuel Barrera Jr. Memorial Scholarship to honor his legacy at ASU,” said Marisol Perez, the associate dean of graduate initiatives at The College. “This award contributes to creating a strong foundation for supporting graduate students’ educational aspirations and reduces financial burden, allowing students to focus more time and energy on their research and studies. As a recipient of a first-generation student scholarship, I can attest that the impact of this award on graduate students can be life-changing and perpetuated.”

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