ADI Spotlight: Alejandro Garcia Fernandez

Oct. 3, 2022

Alejandro Garcia Fernandez


Department: Sociology and joint degree program in Social Policy

Program Year: G3

Undergraduate/Other Institutions:

University of Denver (B.A. in Sociology, minor in Psychology, and B.S. in Business Administration)

Harvard University (A.M. in Education and Ed.M. in Higher Education)

Hometowns: Longmont, CO; Denver, CO; Cambridge, MA

ADI Affiliations:

Tell us about your background.

I am an immigrant—my mom’s side of the family is Colombian and my dad’s side of the family is Dominican. I was born in the Dominican Republic and lived there until I was 7. I also identify as gay and queer, and as a first-generation college and graduate student. Being at the intersection of multiple marginalized and underrepresented identities in academia encouraged me to find communities that could support me and that I could give back to while completing my higher education.

What are your research interests?  What excites you about it?

My research interests were first sparked by the late Devah Pager’s work, and more specifically her book titled Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration. Her study of racial discrimination in employment and mass incarceration inspired me to pursue research with important implications for policy and organizational practice. As a Ph.D. student, my research focuses on institutions affecting ethno-racial and gender inequality, with a particular concentration on educational institutions and labor markets. I am currently looking at bias in employee evaluations, and hope to begin researching DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) practices and officers in different types of organizations.

What does your family think you do in grad school?

I asked my family and their response brought me so much joy! “To me you are a superhero. Part of the work you do is always in support of minorities and the underrepresented. Educating people on how to build a welcoming community.”

How has ADI programming impacted you? 

The most important way ADI programming has impacted me has been through helping me build a sense of community. It has helped me meet students outside of the Department of Sociology and to make connections with students and staff across campus. It has served as a constant reminder to venture out of my departmental bubble.

What advice would you give prospective, incoming, and/or first year underrepresented Princeton graduate students?

Believe in yourself and do not be afraid to ask for help! Find things you enjoy doing that are not related to your program or research :) Try to venture out of Princeton's campus!

What's been most helpful to you in acclimating to Princeton?

My support systems! My family, friends, cohort mates, and department. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by kind, intelligent, loving, and funny individuals that made the transition to Princeton fun and easy.

How would your friends describe you? 

“Delightful and supportive”

“Exceptionally talented at cracking jokes”

“Exquisite [I think this was a joke, but I like it haha]. Radiates warmth and joy”

“So energetic, warm, and welcoming”

“You’re a firecracker! Creative, thoughtful, encouraging, very funny”

“Always available to have serious conversations and be super helpful, as well as silly moments”

“Teeming with positive vibes that brighten up people around you”

What should the ADI community know about you?

I enjoy coffee (current obsession? Small World’s cold brew topped with a sweet pumpkin cream), exploring major cities’ flagship public libraries (current favorite? Boston Public Library’s Central Library in Copley Square), group fitness classes at Dillon (I just stumbled upon 305 Fitness and regret not knowing about it before!), books (currently reading On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong), TV (currently watching Only Murders in the Building), chocolate (my current love affair is with chocolate from Venchi), hikes, and trips into Philly/NYC. I am a Resident Graduate Student at Mathey College as well, where I co-host screenings of RuPaul’s Drag Race and help facilitate book clubs with undergraduate students. I love meeting people and making new friends :)

What do you know now that you wish you'd known before?

I now know how to embrace “good enough." Graduate school is like one of those ridiculous obstacle courses on Wipeout: you have so many competing assignments and responsibilities that it is impossible to complete each one as perfectly as you would like. Instead, I have tried to develop a sense of when I have worked on a task long enough to reach a stage I can be proud of, and then quickly move on to work on something else.

What’s on your mind?

Climate change, socioeconomic inequality, politics, and contemplations of what I want for dinner.

What’s your perfect day?

“That’s a tough one. I’d have to say April 25th because it’s not too hot, not too cold...all you need is a light jacket.”