Giving voice to immigrant experiences

Published: May 12, 2022

An adult with dark hair pulled back wearing a Fuchsia dress jacket and a blouse with Fuchsia flowers stands in front of a tree. Immigrant, UMBC, teenager.
Melisa Argañaraz Gomez (Marlayna Demond '11/UMBC)

Melisa Argañaraz Gomez 

Degree: Ph.D., Geography and Environmental Systems
Hometown: Longchamps, Buenos Aires
Plans: Assistant professor in residence, Urban and Community Studies program, UConn Waterbury

“When I arrived in Spain as a teenager, my teachers did not expect me to go to college because I didn’t have the resources to access certain learning opportunities. Now, as a graduate student in the U.S., remembering my experience as a teenager helps me connect with the students I support and empathize with their lives.”

Melisa Argañaraz Gomez has lived and learned around the world. She was born in Argentina and moved to Granada, Spain, at the age of thirteen. There she earned a B.A. in sociology from the Universidad de Granada, before earning a master’s in sociology at the University of Amsterdam. From there she moved to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in geography and environmental systems (GES) with Dena Aufseeser, assistant professor of GES, researching the experiences of Baltimore’s immigrant adolescents.

A group of students sit around a red table with books and papers face a person in front of the table with a white board behind them. Immigrant, UMBC, teenager.
Melisa Argañaraz Gomez, leading a class at Centro Sol Summer Scholars Program.
(Image courtesy of Argañaraz Gomez)

Argañaraz Gomez’s areas of research include urban and feminist geographies and migration studies, as well as race and ethnicity. She studies migrant children and youth narratives of inclusion and (un)belonging in Baltimore. One of her projects, “PARqueología Migrante,” in collaboration with Latinas al Rescate and CASA de Maryland, received the 1st annual Spirit of Community Geography Award from the Community Geography Collective. 

The youth engagement project seeks to counter stereotypes of Latin American immigrant teens by amplifying their voices through public presentations to media, neighborhood organizations, and elected officials. It also connects students to city resources and builds communities of solidarity and care. 

Argañaraz Gomez also collaborated in UMBC’s Baltimore Field school to help build public humanities projects. The Mellon Foundation-funded project connects researchers with community organizations in developing methods for ethical research and teaching projects focused in Baltimore. 

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