headshot of a smiling woman with long black hair. she is wearing a necklace and black top

Estrella Torrez

CO-DIRECTOR – Indigenous Youth Empowerment Program

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR – Residential College in the Arts & Humanities

Dr. Estrella Torrez is Associate Professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University.  Her research centers on language politics and the importance of community-based knowledge, particularly among rural Latino and urban Indigenous communities. Dr. Torrez is a Gates Millennium Scholar, being awarded the prestigious award during its inaugural year (2000).  Torrez has degrees from The University of New Mexico (PhD, Educational Thought and Sociocultural Studies, concentration in Bilingual Education; MA, dual concentrations in Early Childhood Multicultural Education and Bilingual Education) and Western Michigan University (BS, Elementary Education). She also studied at The University of Detroit-Mercy and Universidad Nahuatl in Mexico. As a child, Torrez attended schools for migrant children until, at the age of twelve, she began working alongside her family in the fields.  Later, she taught within the migrant education system, eventually working briefly for the Office of Migrant Education in Washington, DC.  In 2009, Torrez co-founded the Indigenous Youth Empowerment Program (IYEP), a program serving urban Native youth and families in Michigan.  She presently serves as IYEP’s co-director and facilitates an afterschool program for K-12 youth, as well as organizes a summer cultural camp for approximately 50-100 urban Indigenous youth.  From 2011-2013, Dr. Torrez served as a Commissioner on the Metropolitan Detroit Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where she was charged with interrogating structural racism embedded in housing, education, and ‘criminal justice’ systems. In her tenure at MSU, Torrez has taught multiple experience-based university courses on Latino and Indigenous issues in Mexico and the US Southwest, as well as various on-campus collaborative courses with Migrant Student Services. In the spring of 2013, she initiated the Nuestros Cuentos collaborative project with the College Assistance Migrant Program and Lansing School District. Nuestros Cuentos brings together students from MSU’s RCAH and CAMP with elementary-aged Latino youth in a storytelling project. The project results in a fully illustrated children’s book sharing the youth’s experiences of living in Michigan. Since the inception of Nuestros Cuentos over dozens have had their stories published in two volumes. Recently, Dr. Torrez expanded the project to include the perspectives of Indigenous youth (Gadabaajiimowinaanin).  In addition to her community-based research, Dr. Torrez’s scholarly interests include the intersection of critical pedagogy, civic engagement, multicultural education, Indigenous education, and sociocultural literacy.


Email: torrezjs@msu.edu
Phone: 517-884-1327
Twitter: @EstrellaTorrez
Academia: EstrellaTorrez


Snyder Hall
362 Bogue St Room C230l
East Lansing MI 48825 US