Meet a Roadrunner: Alumna Carla Pezzia is a champion for the disenfranchised

Carla Pezzia

Carla Pezzia

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(Feb. 19, 2014) -- Meet Carla Pezzia. Her recently completed dissertation on alcoholism and mental health is helping to improve the lives of people in Panajachel, Guatemala.

Pezzia is a recent graduate of UTSA's doctoral program in anthropology. In recognition of her "methodologically innovative and relevant" research, her dissertation, "The Sober Self: Discourse and Identity of Recovering Alcoholics in the Western Highlands of Guatemala," won the 2014 Outstanding Dissertation Award by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE).

According to Jill Fleuriet, adviser and mentor to Pezzia, "her dissertation in sobriety and alcoholism is groundbreaking. It combines phenomenological philosophy with applied anthropological and epidemiological methodologies to document the experience of sobriety among the Kaqchikel Maya, a medically underserved, socioeconomically marginalized indigenous group in Guatemala. Her work is at the forefront of alcoholism treatment research and medical anthropological research on addiction."

Fleuriet says Carla was one of her top Ph.D. students because of her ability to critically synthesize literature and assess research, and her leadership in professional outreach, community participation and university involvement. At UTSA, Pezzia was president of the Anthropology Graduate Student Association and the Graduate Student Association, along with being a teaching assistant.

Pezzia credits much of her success to her mentor.

"We met regularly, and her constructive feedback really strengthened me as a student and future scholar," Pezzia said.

At UTSA, Pezzia received the Graduate School Presidential Dissertation Fellowship and Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, and was awarded funding from the anthropology department and the English department's Brackenridge Endowment. Post-graduation, she spent two months in Hermance, Switzerland, after receiving a competitive visiting fellowship.

Pezzia's work and research started in 2006, based on her commitment to equity in health care and education and social justice for disenfranchised groups. Currently, she works at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio as a postdoctoral fellow researching mental health care for hospital patients and social support networks for Latinos in substance abuse recovery programs. She also teaches UTSA courses in public health and hopes to become a tenure-track faculty member.

Even though her dissertation is complete, she continues to return to Guatemala -- the mark of a scholar truly committed to her research and its subjects.

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