Estrella Torrez

Associate Professor

C230L Snyder Hall

Image shows Estrella Torrez



PhD in Educational Thought and Sociocultural Studies, University of New Mexico
MA in Early Childhood Multicultural Education and Bilingual Education, University of New Mexico
BS in Elementary Education, Western Michigan University


Dr. Estrella Torrez is an 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 families and urban Indigenous youth. Dr. Torrez is a Gates Millennium Scholar, being awarded the prestigious award during its inaugural year.

Dr. Torrez has degrees from The University of New Mexico (Ph.D., Educational Thought and Sociocultural Studies, concentration in Bilingual Education; M.A., dual concentrations in Early Childhood Multicultural Education and Bilingual Education) and Western Michigan University (B.S., Elementary Education). She has also studied at The University of Detroit-Mercy and Universidad Nahuatl in Mexico. 

As a child, Dr. Torrez attended schools for migrant children until, at the age of 12, she began working alongside her family in the fields. Later, she taught within the migrant educational system, eventually working briefly for the Office of Migrant Education in Washington, D.C.

In 2009, Dr. 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 youth in Kindergarten through 12th grades, as well as organizes a summer cultural camp for 65 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 systems.

In her tenure at MSU, she has taught five experiential-based university courses on Latino and Indigenous issues in Mexico and the U.S. Southwest, as well as four 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 4th-6th grade Lansing Latino youth in a storytelling project. The project results in a fully illustrated children’s book sharing the Latino youth’s experiences of living in Michigan. Since the inception of Nuestros Cuentos, over 40 children have had their stories published in two volumes.

In addition to her community-based research, Dr. Torrez scholarly interests include the intersection of critical pedagogy, civic engagement, multicultural education, Indigenous education and sociocultural literacy.