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Dr. Todd G. Pierce, PhD

Field School Founder - Lecturer - Instructor

Permanent Isla Mujeres Resident

PADI Divemaster


PhD Catholic University of America 2011

MA Yale University 1995

BA University of Connecticut 1993

Dr. J. Paige MacDougall, PhD

Lecturer - Instructor

Socio-Cultural Anthropology


PhD McGill University


Dr. Todd Pierce is an anthropologist who has conducted ethnographic field work for over 20 years in the United States, but now lives full-time on Isla Mujeres. 

His research focus has been on issues concerning HIV-AIDS (transmission and prevention), drug use and misuse, harm reduction, homelessness, poverty, violence (structural, symbolic, political, everyday, gender and orientation based, community and family violence), childhood sexual abuse, rape, social network analysis, ethics in anthropology, ethnographic method development and ethnographic representation. 

Dr. Pierce's primary research areas have been Hartford, CT [5 years], Wasthington, DC [18 years] and New York City [1 year]. He has also conducted pilot research in Chicago, Stockholm, Reykjavik,  Prague, Jamaica, Belize, Honduras and Mexico [Quintana Roo and Yucatan]. 


Dr. Pierce will be joined by guest lecturers and visiting scholars who will assist in training the students of the Ethnographic Field School.

Dr. Paige MacDougall has extensive ethnographic fieldwork experience with indigenous peoples in Yucatan, Mexico and in devising sustainable social programs for persons with disabilities. Her doctoral research explored the relationship between sign language use and social inclusion for deaf persons in a Yucatec Maya community where there is a high percentage of deafness, and widespread use of sign language by both deaf and hearing persons.


Paige has a background in Maya archaeology (Belize, C.A.), and is especially interested in the revitalization and continuance of indigenous/aboriginal languages and ideologies. She is the Director of Research at the Canadian Deafness Research and Training Institute (CDRTI) in Montreal, Quebec, and is the Founder of a non-profit organization in Mexico called YUCAN Make a Difference A.C. Paige is also is a founding member of the Nunavut Deaf Society (NDS) in Canada.


Recognizing the important role that engaged and collaborative anthropology play in the design of ethnographic fieldwork projects, her methodology relies heavily on community engagement.


Dr. Randy Blazak, PhD

Lecturer - Instructor

Sociologist and Criminologist

 Featured on NPR, CNN, Discovery, BBC,

New York Times


PhD Emory University


Dr. Molly Doane, PhD

Lecturer - Instructor


Associate Professor

Affiliated Associate Professor of

Latin American and Latino Studies

University of Illinois at Chicago


PhD, CUNY 2001

Dr. Randy Blazak is a sociology professor who has spent the last 25 years studying hate crimes and hate groups. He earned his PhD from Emory University in 1995 after completing an extensive field study of racist skinheads.


His 2001 co-authored book Renegade Kids, Suburban Outlaws included some of his enthographic research on skinheads and homeless youth. For the last five years he has been researching the growth of white supremacist gangs in prisons.


He has conducted field research in correctional facilities in Texas, Washington and Oregon. His 2009 book, Hate Offenders, highlighted his research on prison populations. He has taught a class on youth culture and ethnography since 1989.

Dr. Molly Doane is an Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at University of Illinois at Chicago.  Her ongoing research concerns environmental politics, alternative markets and commodities, and social movements in Mexico and the United States. 


Her book, Stealing Shining Rivers: Agrarian Conflict, Market Logic, and Conservation in a Mexican Forest (University of Arizona Press, 2012) explores the attempts of an NGO-led social movement to incorporate an agenda of local autonomy into a “mainstream” environmental conservation project. This work received the 2012 prize for the best social science book on Mexico from the Latin American Studies Association. 


Most recently, her research has explored alternative political and economic models as they are expressed through fair trade coffee.  She is currently working on a book, Meaningful Markets:  The Culture and Politics of Fair Trade Coffee, concerning fair trade coffee that is produced in Chiapas, Mexico and marketed in the Midwest and the UK. 

Dr. Patrick Alexander, PhD

Guest Lecturer - Instructor


DPhil Education - University of Oxford 2011

PGCE [English] - University of Oxford 2005

MSc Soc Anth - University of Oxford 2005

BA [Hons.][first] King’s College - London 

United States and Latin American Studies 1993


Dr. Patrick Alexander is a social anthropologist specializing in childhood, youth and education. He is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology - University of Oxford, and Senior Lecturer in Education (Anthropology and Sociology) at Oxford Brookes University (UK).


He is also a Fulbright-Peabody Scholar and Visiting Scholar at New York University, and a Senior Research Associate at the Social Issues Research Centre. Patrick's current research explores aspiration and imagined futures among inner city high school students in NYC and London. from 2008-2013 Patrick was a College Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford, and he continues as a tutor of anthropology in Oxford University's department for Continuing Education.


Alongside teaching, Patrick has worked on a wide range of research projects exploring age, social identity and education. Patrick's first degree is in Latin American Studies, and he speaks fluent Spanish. .

Dr. Carlos Cabrera, MD 

 Director Fundacion Brazos Abiertos BAI

Native of Merida, Yucatan


BA Biological Physicochemistry Sciences

MD, University of Yucatan


Dr. Carlos Cabrera is a general practictioning medical doctor who is also a leading specialist in HIV prevention and AIDS care in the Yucatan region of Mexcio.


He is the creator of Brazos Abiertos (Open Arms). Brazos Abiertos Yucatán (and Brazos Abiertos International, or BAI) has established a peer-on-peer education program called TEAMM (Teenage Education on AIDS in Mérida, México). US high school and college students (TEAMM USA) facilitate HIV-AIDS workshops in the villages, and then return to Mexico again to train the local teenagers (TEAMM Yucatan) to teach the workshops themselves. Dr. Cabrera and his group of volunteers help facilitate the workshops, providing medical and health information and free HIV testing, and collect data to better understand the true impact of AIDS in the area.


The compassion and respect with which all members of BAI relate to the villagers has enabled BAI to enjoy a rich cultural exchange and has provided a safe environment in which sharing and open personal communication not characteristic of the Mayan culture has occurred. 

BAI offers free condoms wherever possible and free anonymous HIV testing, as well as pre and post HIV counseling.


Dr. Cabrera will be a visiting lecturer for the 2015 summer program. Students interested in Medical Anthropology as part of their Ethnographic Methods program will participate in an HIV prevention and testing outreach clinic with himself, Dr. Pierce and the Brazos team.

Profesora Christy Dix, M.A.

Spanish Instructor and Isla Mujeres Resident

Owner -  On Target Language Services


M.A. Latin American Literature - Spanish

Miami University 1999

B.A. Spanish

University of North Carolina at Wilmington 1997

Marissa Smith

IFS Alumni

Director of Cultural Immersion | Field Assistant

Owner - Barracuda Board Co.

University of Chicago

Profesora Christy Dix is a native Southern Californian with an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Education, as well as founder and owner of On Target Language Services -- currently living on Isla Mujeres with her husband and young daughter.


She also holds a Master's Degree in Latin American Literature and has seven years of teaching experience at a private college-prep K-12 school in Palos Verdes, followed by her development of On Target Language Services, a private tutoring business in Torrance, CA for 5 years. 


Christy believes that yes -- you can have fun while you're learning and living the language! 

Dr. Andrea Schuman, PhD

Guest Lecturer - Instructor


PhD Brandeis University 1999

MS Ed State University of

New York at Binghamton 1978

BA Sarah Lawrence College 1971

Dr. Andrea Schuman has been involved with child and family policy, health policy, educational policy, disability issues, and early childhood education as a practitioner, community organizer, state policy maker, researcher, teacher and consultant at the state and national levels for thirty years. Since moving to Yucatán, México in 2001, she has taught at the graduate level and has continued to work developing and implementing community based projects in health and education, and has strengthened her expertise in the area of agricultural policy.


Dr. Schuman is the Director of Center for Scientific and Social Studies, where she provides direction, administration and project leadership to an interdisciplinary organization in carrying out projects that promote community health and development and contribute to the knowledge base in and practical applications of environmental studies. Activities focus on research and program initiatives in the areas of health issues confronting vulnerable populations, the economic and social concerns attendant to emigration/immigration, culturally appropriate practice in education and health settings, and in environmental assessment, ecology, and conservation. The Center has a multinational focus, with a particular interest in the peoples of the US, Mexico and the countries of Central America.


Dr. Schuman is also an Adjunct Graduate Professor at Anahuac Mayab Univeristy in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, where she Teaches and supervises thesis and dissertation work in the Center for Educational Innovation of this private university. Specializing in qualitative research methods, public policy and supervision of more than 20 Master´s degrees, two doctoral dissertations in progress and one completed doctoral dissertation.

Marissa Smith is a current undergraduate student at The University of Chicago, with an extensive academic and on-the-ground background in psychology and anthropology. Upon completion of her work on the Cultural Pathogenesis and Interpretation of Alcoholism at the 2014 IFS Advanced Methods Practicum Session, Marissa decided to pursue her interests in the Spanish-Mexican language and culture onsite in Mexico,


These passions took her from the sprawling side streets of Mexico City to the mountains of Michoacan, and many places in-between. She returned to the Yucatan Peninsula after presenting her alcoholism research at the 2015 SFAA conference in Pittsburgh to once again participate in the 2015 IFS Adanced Methods courses, this time both conducting her own research on Whale Shark Ecotourism and aiding students as Dr. Pierce’s Field Assistant. After the students of Summer 2015 departed, Marissa once again took up her search for conocimiento about the country she now called home, traveling between the Yucatan and Chiapas and along the Pacific Coast -- focusing particularly on the subcultural resurgence of ancient art forms:  Weaving, wire-work, homeopathic medicines, and street performance.


Marissa's travels and the close personal connections formed throughout have granted her a unique understanding of both local language and living-insights, both of which she is always eager to share with new IFS students. She returned to the IFS classroom again in 2016, this time taking on added responsibilities as the IFS Director of Cultural Immersion in addition to Field Assistant -- dedicating her time to acclimatizing and acculturating the new sessions of students through one-on-one interaction, personalized networking, and group activities ranging from salsa dancing lessons to regional dinners, to Mexican movie nights.


Marissa is currently in the process of launching the first female-owned longboard (skateboard) brand in Latin America, Barracuda Board Co. Blending her entrepreneurial prowess and psychoanthropological background, she works in conjunction with local leaders to promote and support healthy forms of self-expression, such as alternative sports, the arts, and music.

Tracy Gunn 

Founder Pocna Dive Center

IFS PADI Certification Course Dive Instructor


LaTrobe University, Bendigo (Australia)


Tracy Gunn, Australian native, Dive Instructor and founder of Pocna Dive Center on Isla Mujeres -- trains all IFS. Advanced Methods students to be PADI Open Water Certified divers. She has also trained IFS students to become Advanced Open Water and Rescue Divers. Her experience and expertise, as well as very personable nature and knowledge of island culture are valued resources to our students. Not only for dive training, but also in terms of life skills and adapting to the cultural stress of living in a foreign land. 


All Advanced Methods Students of the Isla Mujeres Ethnographic Field School become PADI Certified Divers.  It is hard to understand the political-economic structures and cultural aspects of the island without understanding the water that surrounds it; PADI training builds self confidence and team work for each class unit; and in addition dive training opens your eyes to the much larger picture of what our planet is. It humbles and tests you in spiritutal, intellectual and physical ways, pushing boundries that you thought you might never break or go beyond. 

Ana K. Celis, M.A.

Guest Lecturer - Instructor

Marine Archaeologist and Dive Instructor




Ana Celis is a Marine Archaeologist and Dive Instructor who regularly offers workshops in underwater/maritime archaeology to archaeology students from various universities in Mexico. She also participates with the Universidad del Caribe in Cancun giving lectures on archaeology and environmental archaeology to their students of alternative tourism.


With over ten years of field experience on a wide variety of research projects, Ana is a vital resource for the academic, conservation and diving communities in the region and nationally. Ana lectures on the subject of Marine Archaeology, it's principles and importance in relation to the environment, culture, heritage and tourism.


Ana also helps to train the students and expand their holistic approach to anthropology as a discipline by actually guided them on an under water ship wreck dive. Her expertise and experience will be a great addition to the Isla Mujeres Ethnographic Field School.

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