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Diversity Staff

George Sanchez - Vice Dean for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives

George J. Sanchez, professor of American Studies & Ethnicity and History, was appointed Director of College Diversity in April 2008.  He is responsible for ensuring that the USC College fundamental commitment to the benefits of a diverse College community is effectively translated into best practices in areas such as faculty recruitment and retention, graduate student programs, and undergraduate research experiences and advancement.  He works with all College departments to address what the commitment to diversity means in various disciplinary settings.  To ensure the College efforts have an impact beyond the immediate community, he works with a variety of national organizations and foundations on the development of special programs and research agendas.  Given the importance of this work and the breadth of these responsibilities, he reports directly to the Dean of the College.

An award-winning scholar of Chicano history and immigration who joined the College faculty in 1997, Sanchez is director of the USC Center for Diversity and Democracy. He is the former director of American studies and ethnicity, a program he helped build into one of the top American and ethnic studies departments in the nation. Sanchez helped bring to USC a $3.6 million James Irvine Foundation grant supporting underrepresented doctoral students when he was director of the Irvine Fellowship Program. A renowned mentor, he has served on the advisory board for both the USC Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program and the McNair Scholars Program.  He has placed thirteen former Ph.D. students in tenure-track positions throughout the United States.  A former president of the American Studies Association, he now chairs its Committee on Graduate Education. Sanchez also serves on minority scholars committees of the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association. 

Sanchez’s 1993 book, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900–1945 (Oxford), earned six awards in fields such as immigration history and Western history. His article “ ‘What’s Good for Boyle Heights is Good for the Jews’: Creating Multiracialism on the Eastside During the 1950s” won the 2005 Constance Rourke Prize for best article appearing in American Quarterly. He is also series co-editor of American Crossroads: New Works in Ethnic Studies from University of California Press, which has published twenty-five works in that field over the past decade, many that have won major scholarly awards in a variety of disciplines.  He is presently working on a book about the impact of Mexican migration upon late 20th century Los Angeles culture, and a historical study of multiethnic interaction in East Los Angeles.  Sanchez received his bachelor’s from Harvard in 1981 and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1989. Before USC he taught at UCLA and the University of Michigan.

Alexis Moreno - Assistant Vice Dean of Diversity and Strategic Initiatives

Alexis Moreno joined the Office of Diversity and Strategic Initiatives in January 2014. Prior to USC, Alexis was Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation at Special Services for Groups (SSG), a Los Angeles based nonprofit organization. While at SSG, she worked with community members, nonprofit staff and other stakeholders on program development, assessment, and community based research with the goal of empowering all stakeholders to collect and use program data. Alexis has also served as Assistant Director of the Center for Community Based Learning at Occidental College, where she built civically engaged leaders and scholars among faculty and students. While at Occidental, she was selected for California Campus Compact’s Bridge Building Leadership Initiative, a fellowship dedicated to developing promising leaders of color in the field of university-community partnerships.

Alexis holds an M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA. She is trained as a community organizer, a facilitator for civic reflection, and an oral historian. She has been active in researching community histories, and served as a Planning Commissioner for the East Los Angeles Local Area Planning Commission.


Monica Pelayo - Graduate Research Assistant

Monica Pelayo is a PhD candidate in the History Department at USC. Her research primarily deals with issues of race, immigration, and public history within the United States. She is currently writing a dissertation that assesses how the idea of the United States as an immigrant nation began to circulate during the Cold War. She argues that public history institutions like the Smithsonian, Ellis Island, and the American Museum of Immigration where invested in reproducing this anthem as a way of creating national unity and a sense of belonging for millions of Americans. This national policy, however, led to a re-evaluation of immigration history and it opened the door for the creation of other public spaces whose missions centered on the empowerment of disenfranchised peoples and countered ideas of the United States as melting pot. 

Before entering graduate school, she worked in the museum and non-profit world. At the Autry National Center, she revamped the Community Outreach Kits so that teachers and students could engage with local history while complying with curriculum standards. This work led her to a love of public history, where she found employment as a Community Storyteller and Programs Assistant at the Studio for Southern California History, a Curatorial Intern at Smithsonian National American History Museum, and a Research Associate at the Bracero Oral History Project. 

Jessica Lovaas - Graduate Research Assistant

Jessica Lovaas is a doctoral candidate in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Her work focuses on the policing of high school youth, both in the classroom, through curriculum censorship and the banning of ethnic studies, and on the streets, through visual surveillance and physical criminalization. A former guidance counselor in the New York City public school system, she continues to work for increased college access and the decriminalization of youth in California, running critical test prep trainings, writing project-based curricula, and organizing for legislative reform.

Floridalma Boj Lopez

Floridalma Boj-Lopez is a doctoral candidate in USC’s Department of American Studies and Ethnicity.  Self-identified as a 1.5 generation Maya-Kiche and raised in Los Angeles, she uses her family history and life experiences to guide her research project.  Her research examines forms of cultural maintenance among Guatemalan Maya migrants and second generation Mayas in Los Angeles, especially as they relate to envisioning and living just, decolonial and indigenous politics.  She received a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an M.A. from California State University, Northridge.

Carlos Francisco Parra - Graduate Research Assistant

Carlos Francisco Parra is a doctoral student in the USC Department of History. Based on his experiences growing up along the Arizona-Sonora border, he focuses on the issue of cultural identity formation among Mexican and other Hispanic groups in Northern Mexico and the greater U.S. Southwest. His research focuses on the political and economic development of the international boundary between Mexico and the United States as well as the ideological forces that played a role in the ways in which borderlands residents on both sides of the border came to understand themselves as either Mexicans or North Americans. Prior to attending USC, he attended the University of Arizona and the University of New Mexico and also served as a public high school history teacher in his home community. His current work within the Office of Diversity and Strategic Initiatives centers on the History in a Box Project in which he coordinates a public history research project on the Los Angeles east-side neighborhood of Boyle Heights."

Anneleise Azua - Undergraduate Research Assistant

Anneleise Azua graduated from the University of Southern California in May 2014 with degrees in Communication and Gender Studies. She has worked on independent research through the McNair Scholars Program, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, HSBC Fellowship, and the Dornsife Summer Undergraduate Research Fund. Anneleise has worked as an undergraduate research assistant to the Vice Dean for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives since 2011 and is currently the website content manager for Dornsife Diversity sites. She is a member of Lambda Theta Alpha, Latin Sorority, Inc. and has maintained involvement with the National Hispanic Institute in her hometown of McAllen, Texas. She will be attending the University of Texas at Austin in the fall to pursue a doctorate in American Studies. 

Felicitas Reyes - Undergraduate Research Assistant

Felicitas Reyes is an American Studies and Ethnicity major. She began working for the office of Diversity and Strategic Initiatives in the summer of 2014. In the fall she will continue working with the office as the office assistant. Felicitas will also be apart of the Roots Foundation, which focuses on mental wellness and health for the women of Skid Row, as the Administrative Director. She will also continue involvement in Chicanos for Progressive Education and Latino Fellowship.