Associate Professor of History Dr. Delia Fernandez-Jones recently promoted, named Faculty of the Year

Associate Professor of History Dr. Delia Fernandez-Jones was recently promoted to a  tenured faculty position within the History department. 

“I’ve worked really hard for this accomplishment,” Fernandez-Jones said. “It opens up opportunities that I really look forward to.” 

Fernandez-Jones is a historian of Latina/o history, and her research and teaching interests include the intersections of race, ethnicity, and sexuality in American history. Her teachings primarily focuses on immigration, migration, labor, social movements, and women’s history. She is also a core faculty member and Undergraduate Program Coordinator in the Chicano/Latino Studies Program. 

Fernandez-Jones said the process of being promoted took more than a year to complete. She said her colleague’s vote to approve her promotion felt validating and made her feel like her work is truly valued within the department. 

“The process started a year before, so last spring I was getting my materials together,” Fernandez said.  

“The MSU Board of Trustees vote felt really good. It became effective July 1.” 

The Chair of the History Department, Dr. Michael Stamm, said having a professor like Fernandez-Jones is invaluable to the department.  

“I’m so proud of Delia for her achievements in the History Department, and I’m very pleased that the College and University have recognized these by approving her promotion and tenure,” Stamm said.  

“Her book is a pathbreaking work of a scholarship that brings new voices and perspectives into the historical record.  She is doing some vital public-facing scholarship and community building in Michigan, and she has been an important mentor in the department to undergraduate and graduate students.  

Delia is an inspiring scholar who has produced a tremendous record of research, teaching, and university, and public service, and I’m thrilled that she’s now a tenured member of the History Department.  I look forward to seeing the exciting new things that she does in the next phase of her career.” 

In addition to her promotion, Fernandez-Jones was awarded the MSU Faculty of the year (Plantando Semillas Award) at the Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta celebration earlier this year. This award is given to an individual who has proven to be a pillar of light and knowledge in our MSU community, stands for inclusion and equity in education in building and transforming knowledge, and is focused on developing tomorrow’s leaders. 

“Recognition from this community is really, really huge,” she said. “That my colleagues and the Latinx community at MSU see me as worthy of this is really affirming. Somebody sees my work and it makes a difference.” 

The Faculty of the Year (FOTY) award honors faculty who are committed to excellence in the five main areas of faculty performance teaching and learning, student success, professional development, leadership, and college service, and community service and creating a college-going culture. 

Last year proved to be a busy year for Fernandez-Jones, who also published her first book Making the MexiRican City: Mexican and Puerto Rican Migration, Activism, and Placemaking in Grand Rapids, Michigan (University of Illinois Press, 2023).  Dr. Fernandez-Jones, a MexiRican Latina and first-generation college student who earned her B.A in history from Grand Valley State University and her M.A and Ph.D in history from Ohio State University, wrote her first book based on extensive primary source research and drew from her own lived experiences in the region. 

Her book details how disparate Latino communities came together to respond to social, racial, and economic challenges and simultaneously transformed Grand Rapids and the Midwest from the 1920s to the 1970s.   

Fernandez-Jones said she has enjoyed further connecting with the Grand Rapids community while raising awareness of social issues and inequities that Latinos face.  

“This is also an opportunity to engage in communities outside of academia,” Fernandez-Jones said. “My book is based on Grand Rapids, and since the book’s publication, I was able to spend moret ime there connecting with community organizations. I was able to learn about their work and  and  how to make my work more accessible and helpful to the issues the current Latinx community faces in Grand Rapids. 

Since her appointment by the governor in 2018, Fernandez-Jones serves on the   Michigan Historical Commission, which oversees the Michigan Historical Marker Commission, among other responsibilities. When she started, only two out of 1,800 historical markers in the state dealt with Latinx history. It is her hope to increase the visibility and awareness of Michigan Latinx history. This includes helping make Latinx history in Grand Rapids become more well-known. She is working on this with via t 
he Latinx Historical Marker Project, which she is organizing with another historian from Grand Valley State University and community organizers. This project seeks to  collaboratively apply for Historical Markers from the Michigan Historical Marker Program, to commemorate historical places and events that helped shape Latinx Grand Rapids today, especially considering the fight to stop Latinx displacement occurring in the area due to gentrification. 

“I enjoy being engaged in my community as a historian and as a scholar,” she said. 

“I am completely honored to be able to contribute something to these fights as a historian. I have history and I have research. That’s what I can offer – that and my time.” 

Fernandez-Jones contributed to a successful $20,000 grant application to the from the Michigan Humanities 
Council on behalf of the Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities (GAAH). With the funding, Fernández-Jones and community advocates in partnership with GAAH will organize and fund events that commemorate Latinx history and increase community engagement with historical memory projects along the Grandville Avenue area. 

“Gentrification is coming so we want markers to be reminders of the history of the neighborhoods,” she added. “History is not done and over with. It is really important in today’s conversations as whole neighborhoods face displacement.”