Meet Isaac Rivera, One of the 2023 College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Medalists

Submitted by Nell Gross on

The UW College of Arts & Sciences is pleased to announce three Graduate Medalists for 2023. The Graduate Medal honors exceptional graduate students who completed their doctoral degrees this year, with medalists selected on the basis of nomination letters from faculty...

Isaac Javier Rivera

Graduate Medalist in the Social Sciences
PhD, Geography

Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Isaac Rivera says his dissertation is the product of years of collective dreaming and collective organizing in Denver for a liberatory world. His dissertation investigates the entanglements, functions, and remakings of cartography as a vehicle for world-making, focusing on the self-determined ways Indigenous nations know the world instead.

“Isaac’s dissertation advances powerful arguments about the possibilities and pathways for grounded Indigenous liberation politics, particularly with regard to self-determined visual and digital politics,” writes Sarah Elwood, professor and chair of the Department of Geography, in her nomination letter.

Megan Ybarra, associate professor of geography and a member of Rivera’s dissertation committee, adds that the scope of Rivera’s dissertation is crucial to the field of human geography. “First, Isaac demonstrates how social movements that respond to community harms actually create new possibilities for life-worlds,” she writes. “Second, his work bridges the gaps between historically assumed difference between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous peoples of color. In his words, the dissertation ‘maps the terms of freedom’ where Chicanx and Indigenous peoples create new life-worlds through collaboration.”

Geography has been fortunate to support a student with such ferocious creativity and intellectual force....
Sarah Elwood Chair and Professor, UW Department of Geography

Elwood also notes the energy Rivera brought to the department as a student and instructor. She writes, “Geography has been fortunate to support a student with such ferocious creativity and intellectual force, generosity and commitment to students and colleagues, and deep attention to all the ways that universities can be places for justice, equity, and transformation.”

Arts & Sciences Perspectives Magazine