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Published March 26, 2024


Championing change: GSE alumna leads global efforts to address sexual harassment in higher education

Ana Luisa Muñoz-García.

Ana Luisa Muñoz-García, PhD ’15

University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education alumna Ana Luisa Muñoz-García, PhD ’15, is leading research efforts to advance scholarship on policies on knowledge, gender and internationalization. She is the principal investigator on the project, “Mapping the construction of knowledge from a gender perspective,” funded by the Chilean National Agency of Research and Development (ANID).

A graduate of the educational culture, policy and society doctoral program, Muñoz-García’s research interests initially focused on academic mobility related to the construction of knowledge. However, her interests were pulled in a different direction in 2018 during the Chilean feminist mass protests, in which demonstrations, rallies and marches demanded the elimination of the patriarchal systems and gender inequalities in the country, such as common sexist practices in education and a lack of sexual harassment protocols in higher education.

Recognizing that Chile did not have research on these topics, Muñoz-García began to focus her scholarship on issues and policies relating to sexual and gendered harassment, coauthoring a widely cited article in Educational Theory: “Reaction Is Not Enough: Decreasing Gendered Harassment in Academic Contexts in Chile, Hong Kong, and the United States,” followed by creating a policy brief that was key for policymakers to think about gender violence in the context of higher education.

Soon after, as a member of the Women Researchers Association, Muñoz-García was invited to present her research to Congress, leading to the formation of a new law preventing sexual harassment and discrimination in Chilean higher education institutions.

Now, through her work for the Chilean National Agency of Research and Development, she seeks to investigate gender issues and gender policies in higher education institutions in Chile and other countries around the world. “In my current project, I have been interviewing people from Chile, Argentina and Norway—and other countries I am working with—about what it means to be an academic or scholar who is working on gender issues and advancing gender policies in the university or in the system of higher education,” she said.

In addition to her work as a principal investigator and as an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, she is the director of the Department of Curriculum and deputy director of the gender office in the same faculty. Muñoz-García is also a researcher for the Millennium Nucleus Project, in which she analyzes students’ expectations and experiences in higher education in Chile.

Her interest in these areas began during her time as a student at GSE, especially during her research methodology courses with SUNY Distinguished Professor Lois Weis.

“It was interesting because the classes helped me to really think out of the box with my own interests in issues of class and internationalization … I really go back and think to myself about how I was connected with what I love, which is research,” said Muñoz-García.

“Lois was really wise about how to help you to move in the research. You think you’re moving by yourself, like a river. But, you know, metaphorically, the way the river moves—it was her. It was interesting to see because it was kind of natural. It was fluid. Researching and constructing knowledge was not something that she forced. It was a river that had a lot of independence … And it created a lot of confidence for me,” she said.

Even after completing her PhD, Muñoz-García’s scholarly pursuits remained under Weis’s watchful eye. Recognizing Muñoz-García’s research initiatives, editorial roles at the Latin American Educational Research Journal, and involvement in the Association of Women Researchers in Chile, Weis nominated her for GSE’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2022. Praising Muñoz-García, Weis said: “She is a brilliant scholar whose own research and social activism reflects admirably on the University at Buffalo and all that the Graduate School of Education stands for. She is a prolific and internationally respected scholar.”

As Muñoz-García continues her scholarly commitments, she often contemplates the future impact of her work on those who engage with it. “I really like the idea that knowledge contribution—my research and also my teaching—can open windows for people to imagine and for people to create policies, poetry, essays, whatever,” she said. “I hope that the work I am doing can be influential for that—a window for people to create, to imagine, or to think; a space to construct knowledge otherwise collectively.” 

Tuesday News Briefs feature the stories of the Graduate School of Education faculty, students and alumni who are engaged in their communities and making an impact through their hard work, dedication and research initiatives. If you have a story to share, please email us with the details for consideration as a future news feature.