48: Maria Pantoja


Political Science

Program and year of study

PhD, 4th year

Previous degrees and colleges

BA Political Science, CSU Stanislaus

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Mexico, but moved to the US when I was six. I grew up in California’s Central Valley, near Modesto.

Where do you live now?

Davis, CA

What's your favorite spot in Davis?

You’ll probably find me working in various cafes. I also enjoy taking strolls down Davis’ quiet streets.

How do you relax?

Watch TV, read, and spend time with my family and friends. 

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú. The author is a former border patrol agent and he recounts his experiences patrolling the border and after he left. It was not the easiest or most relaxing read, but I think it is an important piece and I’m glad I read it.

What TV show are you currently binge-watching?

King of the Hill. I am just now appreciating how hilarious this show is. 

Research interests

I study American politics and am broadly interested in race and ethnic politics, with an emphasis on Latino politics.

Dissertation title or topic

My dissertation will focus on the political ramifications of stigma. I aim to explore how stigma impacts political attitudes and behavior and to compare such potential impacts across historically marginalized groups.

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

I’ll get back to you when I have results.

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

Professor As’ad AbuKhalil first encouraged me to grad school. It was also his Middle East politics course that truly sparked my interest in political science. Professor Stephen Routh has also been very supportive from when I first applied to today.

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

“Do Politicians Racially Discriminate Against Constituents? A Field Experiment on State Legislators” by Daniel M. Butler and David E. Broockman. They test whether legislators’ responsiveness to constituents depends on race by running an experiment where they contacted real legislators with questions about voter registration using white and black aliases. Some political science research can feel very detached from political realities and I appreciated that they engaged in real processes to shed light on the question of inequality. 

Which other researchers at UC Davis are doing work that particularly interests you?

In my department, Brad Jones is doing interesting and important work on deaths on the US-Mexico border. Cecilia Tsu in the Department of History does interesting work on Asian immigrants and agriculture and Erin Hamilton in the Department of Sociology has done interesting work on border militarization and its impact on the family structures of Mexican farm workers.

What's the best thing about being a grad student?

I love seeing undergraduates learn and grow, especially if they have been struggling. I’ve also met many smart and cool people here.

What's the worst?

It can feel thankless and overwhelming. Rejection (grants, publishing, etc.) sucks too.

If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?

Probably working for the state in some capacity.

Finally, please ask yourself a question

What are you afraid of? (Shout-out to Grads Grilled 34: Peter Torres, because I liked the question.)

Dogs. I am so scared of them due to a childhood incident where I was chased by my grandma’s dog, fell, and split my lip open. It’s a strange feeling in a town where about 98% of the people I’ve met/observed are complete dog lovers.


—April 2018


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