María Luisa Parra-Velasco is on the faculty of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. She has a B.A. in Psychology and earned her Ph.D in Hispanics Linguistics from El Colegio de Mexico. For over twenty years, she has taught courses on the Spanish language and Latin American cultures at Boston University and at Harvard. She is part of a national initiative to develop new approaches for teaching Spanish to Latino youth and has pioneered two courses for Latino students at Harvard. Her courses are valued for their strong use of community engagement and visual arts. Along with Dr. Elvira Di Fabio in the Italian program at Harvard, Parra-Velasco designed the initiative “Language through the visual arts: An interdisciplinary partnership” that works closely with Harvard Museums to develop fuller learning experiences in the target languages. In 2019, Parra-Velasco’s creative and cutting-edge work was recognized by Babson University with the 2019 Most Innovative Professors Award.
She also has broad experience working closely with immigrant families and children. She was coordinator of the Home-School Connection Program at the Elliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University where she looked at the various ways in which parents and teachers supported transitions, school adaptation and academic success. In 2008 she continued and expanded her work as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Education working with Mexican and African American children attending East Palo Alto public schools. Based on an ecological theoretical model, Dr. Parra’s work focuses on how parents and teachers impact bilingual development through daily interactions.
A native Spanish speaker from Mexico City, and a mother of two bilingual and bicultural sons, Dr. Parra has always been fascinated by the complexities and joys of bilingual development. She enjoys working with parents and teachers in training who seek to understand and enhance the road to multilingualism.