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Dra. Mary Dueñas, MS ‘16 PhD ‘21

Dra. Mary Dueñas, MS ‘16 PhD ‘21 trains the next generation of student affairs professionals as a tenure-track Assistant Professor at UT–Knoxville

Mary Dueñas (she/her/ella) is a proud first-generation Latina with Central America (Guatemala and El Salvador) roots. Less than 7 percent of doctoral degrees are awarded to Latinxs individuals, and more so .11% of the US population 25+ are both Hispanic/Latinx and have a Ph.D. Dueñas is one of those small percentages. She holds a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) from UW-Madison. She is now a tenure track Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) in the College of Education, Health and Human Services at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Dueñas is originally from Pasadena, California, and she received her bachelor's degree in Criminology, Law and Society from the University of California, Irvine. After completing an undergraduate summer research experience at UW-Madison, she became interested in pursuing her graduate work at Wisconsin. She found UW to be a good fit for her educational journey and had the opportunity to solidify funding to pay for her graduate education. As she said, "a mentor always shared with me – that folks should not pay for their graduate education, and UW-Madison facilitated that process for me." Dueñas attended UW-Madison for her Master's in Counseling. Immediately afterward, she continued to her doctoral degree. Upon graduating, Doctora Dueñas obtained a tenure track position at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Dueñas recognizes her fortune in holding a tenure track position immediately after graduating with a Ph.D. In addition to research and teaching, she is the College Student Personnel (CSP) Program Coordinator, which trains graduate students to be student affairs professionals. The Program provides students with an education grounded in research, theory, and practical experience, and she plans on continuing to grow and advance the Program.  

For Dueñas, the job market was very competitive, especially heightened during the Covid-19 era, and the application process for a faculty position was stressful. She is thrilled to be in her position to work on research with Latinx college students, teach graduate students, and coordinate the College Student Personnel Master's Program. Dueñas is excited about expanding her research agenda and being at UT-Knoxville; her goal is to earn tenure and promotion. We are rooting for you, Mary! Questions for Dr. Dueñas? Please email her at Or follow her on Twitter at @mary_duenas01.