Though Julissa Muñiz was born in San Diego to Mexican immigrant parents, she lived in Tijuana, Mexico the latter half of her childhood, commuting to and from school in San Ysidro, California. Her maternal grandmother was the first in the family to immigrate to the United States with her then husband and two children, including Julissa’s mother. While neither of her parents graduated from high school, they instilled in Julissa a deep love for reading, learning, and justice.
In 2007, at the age of 16, Julissa gave birth to her amazingly brilliant daughter, Amaris. Julissa was the first teenage mother to return to her high school and two years later, she became the first student at her high school to ever be accepted to the University of California, Berkeley.
While at Berkeley, Julissa volunteered at two adult prisons and a youth guidance center where she encountered numerous incarcerated men, women, and youth serving life, or indeterminate sentences, for crimes committed while adolescents. Their narratives and experiences continue to inspire her work as an educator, advocate, and emerging scholar.
After completing her undergraduate studies, Julissa and Amaris moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where she attended Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and earned her EdM. While at Harvard, she was selected as her cohort’s Intellectual Contribution Award recipient.
Julissa is interested in the ethnographic and interactional study of learning environments within carceral spaces, specifically as understood and experienced by incarcerated youths. As a first-generation doctorate student, Julissa founded the first graduate student organization for Latinx students, Comunidad Latinx, to promote campus-wide efforts to improve the recruitment, retention, and persistence of Latinx students, faculty, and staff at Northwestern while creating a sense of comunidad.