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New Mexico State University history professor receives fellowship

New Mexico State University associate professor of history John Nieto-Phillips was recently chosen as a 2003-2004 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow.

John Nieto-Phillips, assistant history professor at New Mexico State University, was recently chosen as a 2003-2004 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. (NMSU photo)

The $50,000 award is given to assist with salary replacement and research expenses for the fellowship period. This year, 34 fellows were selected from a competitive pool of more than 200 postdoctoral education scholars.

Nieto-Phillips will spend his fellowship period conducting a research project titled "Americanization and Education in New Mexico and Puerto Rico, 1890s-1940s." The project will compare Americanization policies and practices directed at schoolchildren in New Mexico and Puerto Rico in the early 20th century.

"A lot of research has been done on the history of education among particular Latino groups, including Chicanos and Puerto Ricans," Nieto-Phillips said. "I am interested in comparing these two groups and studying the similarities and differences in their experiences."

The project will address the extent to which U.S. officials were involved in crafting Americanization programs for Spanish-speaking children and why policies that were designed to incorporate Latinos into the body politic only further marginalized them from it.

These Americanization efforts, such as the attempt to rid children of their native language and foreign habits, bred resentment and alienation. In New Mexico, discontent with English-only policies in schools prompted the expansion of bilingual programs directed by female Mexican-American educators. In Puerto Rico, English was the official language of instruction from 1900 to 1946, when popular opposition brought about the official reinstatement of the Spanish language in schools.

Recently tenured and promoted to associate professor, Nieto-Phillips will be on leave during the upcoming academic year. He will utilize his fellowship to travel to Santa Fe, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, where he will examine historical archives for the project. His research will serve as the basis for a book titled "Latinos and the Body Politic."

The fellowships are administered by the National Academy of Education, which funds proposals that make significant scholarly contributions to the field of education and which advance the careers of the recipients. The fellowships are funded by a grant from the Spencer Foundation, which is designed to insure the future of research in education by supporting young scholars working in critical areas of educational scholarship. Now in its 18th year, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program has more than 500 alumni.