Dr. Leandra H. Hernández is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Utah Valley University. Hernández researches in the areas of reproductive justice, prenatal testing, shared decision making within healthcare contexts, cultural competence, media ethics, and journalistic framing of Latina/o/x and women’s health contexts. Hernández is the co-author, with Sarah De Los Santos Upton, of Challenging Reproductive Control and Gendered Violence in the Américas: Intersectionality, Power, and Struggles for Rights, which received the 2018 Bonnie Ritter Book Award from NCA’s Feminist and Gender Studies Division. Currently, Hernández is exploring Latina reproductive experiences in U.S. and international contexts and has a forthcoming edited volume with Lexington Press (co-edited with Victoria McDermott and Amy May) about communication pedagogies for military-affiliated learners.
1. Your work is explicitly feminist. How does this perspective shape your research?
My research is informed by intersectional and feminist frameworks, which means that I am always attuned to issues of power, ideology, sexism, and inequity (among others). For example, my work with Dr. De Los Santos Upton explicitly explores and seeks to combat medical racism, medical sexism, medical homophobia, and violence, particularly against migrant communities and women of color. My media ethics research also explores journalistic framing of violence against women, which is informed by intersectional and feminist frameworks, as well. Finally, my activist outreach and efforts are also informed by feminist organizing and feminist scholarship, which informs my own approaches to feminist health and media praxis.
2. One of the things you’ve explored in your research is decision making around pre-natal testing. What have you found about how Latina women make decisions about pre-natal testing?
From a cultural perspective, prenatal testing for Latina communities has often been framed in academic research as stemming from a place of low health information literacy. My research on prenatal testing in Latina communities found that Latina communities operate from within their own socially constructed definitions of health (both for themselves and for their fetuses), and their prenatal explanatory models draw upon cultural influences, familial networks as sources of information, and cultural social support. Prenatal testing occupies many conversational intersections—disability activism, maternal-fetal rights, and health information literacy, to name a few—and my research illustrates the importance of culturally-situated knowledges and support systems as well.
3. What advice do you have for graduate students who want to engage in the kind of qualitative research that you do?
Find mentors who will support interdisciplinary and multi-methods research approaches. When I was in graduate school, I was thankful to have a committee that supported the blending of Chicana feminist, intersectional, and traditional health communication frameworks, which continues to inform how I approach my current academic research identity and practice. Moreover, find amazing scholarship to model and inform your own research. I drew from scholarship in feminist studies, Chicana/o studies, Latina/o studies, and Communication studies to help me make sense of the best paradigms and research methods to suit my research interests and questions.
4. You’ve also written about being a military spouse with a graduate degree. What advice do you have for graduate students who are navigating dual careers with their partners?
In my co-edited volume with Dr. Jennifer Belding, we found that military spouses in graduate school are amazing, strong individuals who must overcome all kinds of barriers to complete their degrees and pursue graduate work while living in a military system. We encourage military spouse graduate students to advocate for themselves, consider online/hybrid programs, and also join different communities for social support and advice. Some resources include Military Spouses with Advanced Degrees, which is where I first met Dr. Belding, and the Military Families Learning Network. Also, we encourage institutions of higher education to consider more curriculum flexibility for military-affiliated learners who are navigating deployments and relocations.
5. In your research and teaching, you’ve addressed the way that culture influences health communication and media studies. What tools have been the most useful for you when addressing health communication and culture in the classroom?
I love utilizing various books, documentaries, TEDx Talks, and other media resources to serve as case studies for discussion and analysis. For example, when we discuss reproductive justice and sterilization, we watch and discuss the documentary No Más Bebes. When we discuss Native American/indigenous cultures and health, we read The Scalpel and the Silver Bear and then watch interviews with Lori Alvord. I have also utilized several pedagogy resources from the NCA website, such as the Anti-Racism Resource Bank.