María Ledesma, PhD (she/her/ella)

Maria Ledesma

Professor & Chair, Educational Leadership

My work is anchored in examining the sociology of higher education. My research centers on four core strands: (1) historicizing and contextualizing race-conscious affirmative action policies; (2) applying a critical analysis to framing and discourse as related to race-conscious policies, (3) promoting equity oriented critical policy analysis for praxis, and (4) interrogating “first-generation-ness” as a continuum, which includes examining the experiences of first-generation faculty.


  • Ph.D., Social Sciences & Comparative Education (Higher Education Concentration), University of California, Los Angeles

Recent Publications

  • Ledesma, M.C. (2019). California sunset: O’Connor’s post-affirmative action ideal comes of age in California. The Review of Higher Education, 42, 227-254.
  • Ledesma, M.C. (2017). Leadership as mission critical: Latinas/os, the military, and affirmative action in higher education. Journal of Hispanics in Higher Education, 16(2), 123-143.
  • Ledesma, M.C. (2016). Complicating the binary: Toward a discussion of campus climate health. Journal Committed to Social Change on Race and Ethnicity, 2(1), 6-35.
  • Ledesma, M.C. & Calderón, D. (2015). Critical race theory in education: A review of past literature and a look to the future. Qualitative Inquiry, 21(3), 206-222.

Recent Presentations

  • Revisiting Bell’s theory through “Power Preservation”: Institutional versus individual interest convergence in the twenty-first century. April 11, 2021. American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Virtual Conference.
  • “Becoming keyholders: Charting equity throughout the PK-20 pipeline.” Student Success Analytics Annual Certificate Program. January 29, 2021. California State University Office of the Chancellor.
  • “Race, Policy, and Reform Post-COVID.” Race, Inequality, and Language Education Conference. October 19, 2020. Stanford Graduate School of Education.

Noteworthy Grants and Awards

  • Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship
  • Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship

Online Resources

Dr. María Ledesma was featured on a panel hosted by the UCLA Division of Social Sciences to discuss the context and implications of California Proposition 16.

Dr. María Ledesma was featured on a panel at Stanford's Race, Inequality, and Language in Education (RILE) conference during the Fall 2020 semester. Watch the full recording above - Dr. Ledesma begins speaking at 36:42.

Areas of Research Interest

  • Critical Race Theory
  • Equity Oriented Praxis
  • First-Generation-ness
  • Race Conscious Admissions
  • Sociology of Higher Education

Recommended Reading

Personality Playlist

Listen to María's playlist below and access all of the personality playlists on our Lurie College of Education Spotify account