Lopez-Rivas and Mesinas are Whittier College’s newest Teaching Fellows

September 8, 2023

In addition to offering classes from new assistant professors and globe-trotting lecturers this semester, Whittier College has two new Teaching Fellows working with students while advancing their own research. 

Philomena Lopez-Rivas is the Rustin-Mellon Postdoc in the Department of Art and Visual Studies, while Melissa Mesinas is the Bayard Rustin Teaching Fellow in the Department of Psychological Sciences.

Philomena Lopez- RivasPhilomena Lopez-Rivas

Specializing in Latinx and Latin American art, she is interested in using the arts to build relationships with diverse audiences. She was attracted to Whittier College because of its designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution.

“I hope the students will see some semblance of themselves in the education and bring their own experience to the classes,” said Lopez-Rivas, who grew up in Pasadena.

Outside of teaching, Lopez-Rivas is working on Beyond Obscurity and Legibility: Chaz’s Deconstruction of American Art, the first book-length analysis of Charles “Chaz” Bojorquez’s practice as canonical to American art history. Lopez-Rivas defends her dissertation on the same subject this month to complete her Ph.D. in the art history, theory, and criticism program at the University of California, San Diego.

Lopez-Rivas also enjoys public programming and has worked at various art institutions including the Queens Museum, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Hammer Museum, Armory Center for the Arts, and El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.

The fellowship lasts for three years. This year, Lopez-Rivas will cover Latinx art as well as gender and sexuality in Latinx photography.

Melissa MesinasMelissa Mesinas, Ph.D.

Mesinas was attracted to the Whittier community because of the opportunity to teach a diverse student body while learning alongside her new colleagues. 

“They are curious students who are excited to learn and have many passions,” said Mesinas, who comes from Lynwood. “I appreciate how goal-oriented they are as well.”

Mesinas was previously a visiting assistant professor and a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellow at Scripps College. She has bachelor's degrees in psychology and Hispanic studies from Scripps College as well as a doctorate in education with a concentration in developmental and psychological sciences from Stanford University.

In addition to teaching during the course of her two-year fellowship, Mesinas will continue her research on diasporic Indigenous Mexican communities to learn how cultural practices contribute to the social and emotional development of youth. 

“I want to make the field more inclusive of the lived experiences of communities that are not often represented,” Mesinas said. “I study psychology from a sociocultural perspective and interdisciplinary approach as well.”