Featured Cultural Studies Alumni
Tessa Hicks Peterson, Cultural Studies
After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology at UC Santa Cruz (including one year at the University of Madrid, Spain), Tessa returned to her home community of Los Angeles, CA to work on various projects of social change. Her interests in these areas and her prior volunteer experience with SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center), LISTO (Latino Job Cooperative), and NCCJ (The National Conference for Community and Justice— a human relations organization) shaped her interests in the intersections of race relations, social justice, and community development. She worked briefly as the Health and Life Skills Director at the Boys and Girls Club of Venice, Venice, CA and then spent two years as the Youth Programs Director at the National Conference for Community and Justice where she created and implemented programs on human relations issues with teachers, students, and community members. She then moved on to the Anti-Defamation League, beginning first as the Assistant Director and then the Director of the A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute (anti-bias education institute) where she trained, managed, and facilitated anti-bias education programs on topics ranging from identity and bias to cyber-space bullying and inter-group conflict resolution with students and teachers of educational institutions, pre-K through college. She also trained corporate employees, superintendents and principals, parents and community advocates and conducted train-the-trainer intensive sessions to train her cadre of 25 facilitators. She is a certified Master trainer with the ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute and a certified youth programs trainer with the National Conference for Community and Justice, as well as a certified trainer with Boys and Girls Club Smart Moves Program, in addition to her work as a freelance diversity facilitator. Over the years she has facilitated hundreds of workshops, seminars, and trainings throughout Southern California and the rest of the country. In her last year at the Anti-Defamation League, Tessa served as the Community Service Associate Director, investigating reported bias-motivated incidents and hate crimes as well as directing community-based educational and leadership programs such as the Latino-Jewish Roundtable and the Glass Young Leaders Institute.
After working full time while getting her Masters in Cultural Studies, Tessa left her work with the Anti-Defamation League to pursue her PhD and her burgeoning career as an academic. Tessa currently is an Assistant Professor in Urban Studies and is faculty director of the Center for California Cultural and Social Issues at Pitzer College. In this role she directs the College’s center for community engagement, assisting students, faculty and staff in creating and sustaining service-learning and community-based participatory research partnerships with local community organizations addressing various social justice issues. She also teaches three courses annually, including: Critical Community Studies, Social Change Practicum, Applied Methods in Qualitative Research, Advanced Research Practicum, and Healing Ourselves and Healing Our Communities. Her research interests include the study of social movements, inter-cultural relations, indigenous studies, border studies, poverty, and community-based pedagogy involving participatory-action research and civic engagement. Her latest research projects include: “Engaged Scholarship and Education: A Case Study on the Pedagogy of Social Change” (2009), “Family Economic Success Project” (2007), “Community Border Research Project” (2006), and “The Interconnected Community: Lessons from the Andes on Ecological Regeneration and Interculturalism” (2005). Her latest publications include: “Partnering with youth organizers to prevent violence: An analysis of relationships, power and change” in Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action Journal (forthcoming, July 2010); “Engaged scholarship: reflections and research on the pedagogy of social change” in Teaching in Higher Education Journal: Special Edition (10/09); “Afterword” in Howard L. Bingham’s Black Panthers, 1968 (06/09); and “Humanizing the Other in ‘Us and Them’” in Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, (12/06).
Tessa has practiced Afro-Brazilian dance and martial arts for a decade and has led women’s retreats on movement and healing, nationally and internationally. Tessa is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and travels extensively. She resides with her husband in Sierra Madre, CA.