Within the warm, terra-cotta-colored walls of her office in Dodd Hall, Charlene Villaseñor Black has assembled a whimsical mini-museum of Mexican folk art that includes two baby Jesus dolls, a sacred heart painting, a tiny Frida Kahlo chair and a wooden skeleton with moveable arms and legs. In the corner stands a pair of 5-foot-tall zapatistas — revolutionary fighters — made of straw, complete with guns and bullets.
The faceless straw figures — a gift passed down from a colleague who retired — seem to hover protectively over Villaseñor Black as she sits at her desk. But the professor of art history and Chicana/o studies hardly needs protection; if anything, the campus community often finds itself in her wake. Recently, she was named the winner of the 2016 Gold Shield Faculty Prize, given by the Gold Shield Alumnae of UCLA to a mid-career faculty member who has displayed outstanding accomplishments in teaching, research and community service.