Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, professor of education and associate dean for equity, diversity and inclusion in the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies, was named the 2020 Wallace Foundation Distinguished Lecturer by the American Education Research Association. Her lecture, “Research as Resistencia: Studying Community Colleges as Sites of Hope, Possibilities and Transformation Through a Systems/Funds of Knowledge Approach,” focused on improving educational practice in American schools and educational services for students from low-income communities. She delivered her lecture on April 10, as part of the association’s annual conference, which was held virtually.

Her lecture centered on the importance of community colleges and what can be done to make classrooms the center point of efforts to better serve low-income and racially and ethnically minoritized students. Drawing on and adapting work she has done with colleagues across her career, she explored funds of labor knowledge — the assets, experiences and resources of knowledge that students bring to community colleges. She hopes to help practitioners and faculty see the rich value of those assets and how to connect them with meaningful educational experiences.

Rios-Aguilar’s multidisciplinary research uses a variety of asset-based conceptual frameworks (funds of knowledge, community cultural wealth and the forms of capital) and statistical approaches (econometric models, multilevel models, spatial analyses and GIS, and social network analysis) to study the educational and occupational trajectories of marginalized students.

Rios-Aguilar is a faculty director at Policy Analysis for California Education, a board member of the Spencer Foundation and a research affiliate of UC Davis Wheelhouse: The Center for Community College Leadership and Research.