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 Cognitive Psychology program and Psychology/Law program. 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. Dr. Esqueda is particularly interested in how race essentialism is manifested in trait attributions and conceptualizations of behavior.

Some current projects were designed to understand 1) how ideology systems impact preferences for certain immigrant groups over others and the meaning of preference for procedural justice, and 2) how the notion of essentialism impacts PoC exonerees (particularly Latinx) and perceptions of criminality and culpability. With a team of researchers, Dr. Esqueda is examining the impact of acculturation on dental health status and perceptions for Latinx immigrants and families.

Dr. Willis Esqueda is co-chair of diversity for Society of Personality and Social Psychology, Division 8 of APA.

Dr. Willis Esqueda is a past Research Fellow at the Boston University Anti-Racism Research Center.

Dr. Esqueda is Executive Editor of Journal of Social Psychology (2.72 impact factor and 31/65 ranking), the oldest social psychology journal in publication. She focuses on race and ethnicity issues, group conflict, and prejudice and discrimination.

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 recent past chair of Broadening Representativeness, Inclusion, Diversity, and Global Equity (BRIDGE) Committee, formerly called Minority Affairs Committee (MAC),  of Division 41 of APA, American Psychology Law Society.

She is a fellow of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology, SPSP, Division 8 of APA. 

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, Psychology of Immigration, How to be Anti-Racist, and Race, Indigeneity, and the Law. Graduate courses include the foundational aspects of Social Psychology and an overview of Psychology of Race and Ethnicity.