Cynthia Willis Esqueda, PhD

Cynthia Esqueda received the PhD in Social Psychology from University of Kansas in 1990, and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Ethnic Studies since 1991. She is a faculty member in both the Social Psychology and Psychology/Law Programs. Dr. Esqueda's research interests are focused on the motivations for and cognitive processes about "race" and ethnic bias, particularly against America's indigenous populations. Dr. Esqueda and her students maintain an interest in the manifestations of bias at the individual (internalized stigma, self-conceptions, self-esteem), cultural (images, stereotypes, cultural traditions), and structural (law,  health) levels.

Some current projects were designed to understand 1) how ideology systems impact preferences for certain immigrant groups over others and the meaning of such preference for procedural justice, 2) attitudes towards colonialism and justifications for legal and social inequality, 3) how the notion of essentialism impacts minority exonerees (particularly Latinx) and perceptions of criminality and culpability, 4) the impact of acculturation on dental health status for Latinx immigrants and families.

Dr. Esqueda served as the Director/Coordinator for Native American Studies in the Institute for Ethnic Studies for seven years (1997-2005) and was Chair of the Department of Psychology's Sarata Diversity Enhancement Committee from 2001 to 2016. 

Dr. Esqueda is co-chair for Minority Affairs Committee (MAC) of Division 41 of APA, American Psychology Law Society. She is a fellow of Midwestern Psychological Association (MPA) and serves as university representative.

Dr. Esqueda and her former graduate student and current colleague, Dr. Russ Espinoza, were honored at the annual 2015 meeting of Death Penalty Focus, an organization dedicated to ending the US death penalty and to equalizing disparities in all areas of the US justice system.

Dr. Esqueda teaches undergraduate courses in Psychology of Racism and in Psychology of Immigration. She teaches graduate courses in foundational aspects of Social Psychology and in Psychology of Race and Ethnicity.