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PhD graduate emphasizes importance of open-access publications

December 14, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

Hailing from Toluca, Mexico, Ivonne Lujano Vilchis graduates this fall from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College with a PhD in educational policy and evaluation.

Headshot of Ivonne Lujano Vilchis
Ivonne Lujano Vilchis

It has been a long yet rewarding journey, which started with a bachelor's degree in education from Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México (UAEMEX), followed by a master's degree with an emphasis in education from Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) in Argentina.

After establishing the foundational degrees she needed, Lujano Vilchis realized that Arizona State University would be the best place to continue her education, and was excited by the prospect of connecting with a professor she admired.

"I wanted to work alongside my advisor, Dr. Gustavo Fischman, who is a well-respected researcher and advocate of open access to publications in Latin America and worldwide," she said.

Lujano Vilchis also found inspiration in the overall mission of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and felt that it aligned with her philosophies. She was motivated to explore the intersection of inclusion and innovation in educational research.

Additionally, she discovered the student-led journal Current Issues in Education at ASU. The journal reinforced her passion for scholarly texts and established open access to publications. 

Here, Lujano Vilchis shares her self-care advice for students still in school, how she unwinds and makes time for fun (Mexican folk dancing is a source of joy) and ways to imbue artistic expression into daily experiences.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: Due to the possibility of taking courses in other programs that ASU offers, I took a science policy course at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. It was mind blowing and eye opening regarding the field of STS (science, technology and society). I got to know different theories about the sociology of science and technology that ended up included in the theoretical framework for my dissertation. I highly value the opportunity of having interdisciplinary experiences at ASU.

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to pursue your field of research?

A: I have more than 10 years of professional experience in scholarly publications. My interactions with the academic community of librarians, publishers, journal editors, researchers and scientists had been informed by some of those fields' theoretical and methodological approaches. Yet, despite their coincidences, the challenges in scholarly publications still need to be addressed from an educational research standpoint. My aha moment was when I realized I could combine my passion for scholarly journal publishing and education by using some concepts from the latter, such as knowledge mobilization, which also made me start proposing that we could address the many coincidences between academic journals and schools as they are both knowledge production organizations.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Several professors taught me valuable lessons regarding research methods and theories to address contemporary educational, science and technology research issues. However, Dr. Leigh Wolf, a former professor of the EdD program at MLFTC (Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College), taught me the value of ethics of care in education and academia in general. She embraces a pedagogy based on empathy and respect. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Wolf stressed the need for an online learning experience based on sharing our concerns regarding academic endeavors, personal feelings, and priorities. This approach was crucial for me to overcome my mental health and academic struggles, and it is something I would like to apply in my future as a lecturer and professor.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: My advice is to take care of yourself during graduate school. Listening to yourself and identifying what works best for you is crucial. Is it to take a nap in the evenings? Is it to work out more? Or less? Is it to make a short trip to calm your mind? The best advice I received during the last period of my dissertation writing phase when I was very anxious was, ”You need to be relaxed to write.” I know it might sound simple, but it is true and simple things teach you a lot. So, identify what calms your mind and soul and cultivate those things.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: The Secret Garden was one of my favorite spots. I went there when I felt anxious or stressed and always found peace watching the plants or walking barefoot on the grass. It is also like a quiet island on campus to sit with your friends or meditate before continuing your journey.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I look forward to finding an academic job to develop my research on diversity in scholarly journals, open access and knowledge mobilization. Most importantly, I am willing to return to the classroom and teach my students all the lessons I learned during my PhD. For example, I would love to host a writing workshop to encourage students to write in a safe and caring space. I am also interested in nonprofit organizations. Thus, I also look forward to collaborating with open access and open science organizations at the Latin American and worldwide levels.

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself!

A: My biggest hobby is dancing. I have a professional background in Mexican folk dances but it was hard for me to find a job as a dancer. So, I decided to keep dancing just for fun and I enjoy it very much. Nowadays I dance Argentine tango, a beautiful artistic expression that has taught me about connection, communication and has helped me cultivate my focus and attention. The tango dancing gatherings are my happy places.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would tackle the many issues around biases in using digital technologies, such as the increasing racism and gender biases in AI for educational purposes. Sadly, I don’t foresee an optimistic future in this regard. We need to act now if we don’t want to see damaging consequences for the most marginalized populations that are most affected by the algorithms that are trained based on wrong assumptions regarding who and what knowledge matters.

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