Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Nancy Domínguez-Fret

photo of Nancy Dominguez-Fret

2023 Dean's Merit Award, PhD, literacy, language and culture

Nancy Domínguez-Fret received her bachelor’s degree in secondary teaching of Spanish at the University of Illinois Chicago and when she decided to return to UIC to pursue a PhD, there were several factors that made the decision easy.

“As a UIC alumna, I loved the school as an undergrad, and I thought it would be the perfect place for me to be able to accomplish my dreams of having a PhD and still being close to family,” Domínguez-Fret said.

Domínguez-Fret was excited to be able to work with her faculty advisor P. Zitlali Morales, associate professor of curriculum and instruction.

For her dissertation, her research focused on heritage speakers, Spanish speakers who learned Spanish at home with their parents, who are now Spanish teachers. Traditionally, Spanish teachers are prepared to teach Spanish as a second language, not to teach heritage Spanish speakers.

This focus aligns with Domínguez-Fret’s professional experience of teaching Spanish to students who are heritage speakers at Bolingbrook High School.

“I asked them, for example, ‘if you used Spanglish when you were growing up or as a young adult, and someone corrected you, do you also correct your students and how do those experiences impact your teaching practices?’” Domínguez-Fret said.

Through her dissertation project, Domínguez-Fret has been able to collaborate with her participants to bring her research into practice and share tools with future Spanish teachers at the local, state and national levels.

Domínguez-Fret has earned fellowships, which helped financially. She was awarded the prestigious Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in 2022 and was the first UIC winner of the fellowship since 2002. She was one of 36 awardees from over 500 applicants.

Domínguez-Fret appreciates the freedom she has experienced at UIC. “I feel very safe talking about critical race theory or Latino critical race theory at UIC. That’s a privilege that I have that other scholars don’t have, depending on the institution.”

“The College of Education is preparing teachers that value all students, cultures, histories and language practices,” Domínguez-Fret said. “They are creating safe learning environments for our students. It is exciting to see that change.”