Prof. Edna Viruell-Fuentes was born in Mexico City, Mexico on December 28, 1964. She received a BA in Mathematics and Psychology from Berea College in 1989. She then went on to receive a Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1991. Prof. Viruell-Fuentes worked in the field of health care policy for a number of years before returning to school to work on a PhD in Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan. She received her PhD in 2005. After graduation, Prof. Viruell-Fuentes was a Yerby Fellow and W.K. Kellogg Scholar in Health Disparities for two years at the Harvard School of Public Health. In the fall of 2007, she joined the University of Illinois and the Department of Latina/Latino Studies. She started out as an assistant professor and was subsequently promoted to associate professor with tenure.
Prof. Viruell-Fuentes was a stellar researcher who had developed a national and international reputation as a leading scholar of race, health, and Latina/o immigration. This reputation was due to a superb body of theoretical, quantitative, and ethnographic work she produced that challenged how scholars thought about immigration and racial inequalities in health. Specifically, she eloquently argued that researchers needed to move away from individual level explanations of health disparities and focus instead on the structural factors that shape immigrant health. Indeed, she called attention to how, in order to fully understand immigrant health patterns, one had to analyze how othering, racialization processes, discrimination, residential segregation, and immigration polices affected health.
Just prior to her death, Prof. Viruell-Fuentes had been working on a project that focused on the relation between health and transnationalism. This project made a case for the importance of looking not only at the health experience of migrants at the point of destination but also at how the context in the sending community affects the health of both migrants and the families left behind. Specifically, she was working on an ethnographic study of the ways in which return migration (whether voluntary or due to deportation) to a migrant-sending community in central Mexico impacted the health and well-being of returned migrants, their families, and communities. This research is not only highly innovative but timely given the growing number of deportations to Mexico (and other countries in Latin America) over the last decade.
Prof. Viruell-Fuentes was also an exemplary teacher and mentor. She taught courses ranging from large survey classes, such as Intro to Latina/o Studies, to specialized undergraduate and graduate seminars in her fields of research, such as Immigration, Health, and Society. Because of her deep commitment to teaching, she earned a regular spot on the campus’ List of Instructors Ranked as Excellent. Edna spent a significant amount of time advising and supervising students outside of the classroom, including McNair Scholars, James Scholars, LLS senior thesis writers, and undergraduate and graduate students in other units. Her pedagogical commitment and expertise in immigration and health were integral to our department’s curricular successes and strong instructional reputation.
Prof. Edna Viruell-Fuentes passed away on Sunday, August 23, 2020 in Urbana, IL.
Prof. Jorge Chapa was born in Mexico of Mexican parents and migrated to Chicago, IL as an infant. His education includes a BA with Honors from the University of Chicago (1975) and graduate degrees in Sociology and Demography from the University of California at Berkeley (1979 and 1988).
Prof. Chapa (1953-2015) was the director of the Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society (CDMS) from 2006 to 2011, a professor at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) (2011-2015), and a professor of Latina/Latino Studies (2006-2015) and Sociology (2006-2011) at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Before coming to Illinois, he was a professor and founding director of Latino Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington (1999-2006). Prof. Chapa was also a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) School of Public Affairs (1988-1999), Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, and director of the Graduate Opportunity Program, all at the University of Texas at Austin (1993-1999). He was also a research scholar for the Tomas Rivera Center (1988-1993).
Prof. Chapa served as an expert witness in a number of voting and redistricting cases in Texas, Illinois, Colorado, and Ohio from 1989-2011. He was a member of various organizations such as the U.S. Bureau of the Census Advisory Committee on the Hispanic Population (1994-2002), National Council of La Raza Poverty Research Advisory Council (1997-2001), and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Student Services Formula Study Committee (1995-1998).
Prof. Chapa was widely published on the subjects of Latino policy issues and demographic trends and their political implications. His research interests focused on Latino educational achievement and access into higher education as well as economic and occupational mobility. He identified underlying causes and helped develop policies, programs, and laws to improve their participation. For instance, he assisted in formulating the Texas House Bill 588, Texas Top Ten Percent Plan, which significantly increased the university enrollment of underrepresented minorities.
In 2006, Prof. Chapa was given the "Outstanding Latino/a Faculty Award in Higher Education Research and Teaching," by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE). In 2004, his co-authored book, Apple Pie & Enchiladas: Latino Newcomers in the Rural Midwest(University of Texas Press, 2004) was nominated for the Senior Book Award of the American Ethnological Association. He received the Indiana University Trustees Teaching Award in 2004.
Prof. Chapa died on Monday, October 19, 2015 in Urbana, IL.