Joanna Pinto-Coelho, PhD

I grew up in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

I earned a BA (2009) from a Seven Sisters college, as well as two masters degrees (MA 2011; MS 2012) and a PhD (2016) from an Ivy League university.

I am a quantitatively-trained sociologist with experience conducting, analyzing, writing, and publishing independent, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and mixed-methods research.

In my 14-year career in higher education, I have divided my time among

  • the empirical challenges of interdisciplinary and mixed-methods social science research;

  • the pedagogical challenges of teaching and mentoring a diverse student body about whom I care deeply and with whose struggles I empathize;

  • and the multifarious challenges of solving problems and planning for the future in the rapidly changing university landscape.

In my spare time, I write novels and songs.


Well-crafted stories will always matter in the world, and not just with regards to keeping us hooked on a TV show. Stories matter in good journalism, in an effective grant proposal, in quality academic or market research, in every teachers’ lesson plans. Though we can usually tell a good story when we see one, building one from scratch is harder.

I have spent my life writing, reading, watching, and analyzing all the stories I could get my hands on, and then creating more.


I went to communication arts magnet programs in middle and high school, working on the schools’ newspapers (print and online) and TV stations (mostly as a director and producer), and was keen to double major in Creative Writing and Psychology until I made my way to a Seven Sisters college and met Sociology.

It was love at first sociological text for this Washington, DC native; seven-year student of media literacy; and big fan of world-building in my fantasy-writing endeavors. I had always wanted to understand how things worked, but had never shown promise in STEM subjects (much to the chagrin of my engineer father and physicist grandparents). Suddenly it clicked into place: I wanted to understand how people worked, whole groups of people — societies, governments, families. The world.

I spent most of my four years of college studying, working, and volunteering, and by the spring of my senior year, I had accepted admission into an Ivy League doctoral program in Sociology. I graduated with a MS in Social Policy and a PhD in Sociology.

During graduate school, I learned how to teach and write about the fundamentals of the discipline, social theory, social scientific research methods, and even the sociology of politics and pop culture. I passed comprehensive exams in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminisms; and Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration. I honed my quantitative analysis skills as a Research Assistant as well as an independent and collaborative researcher.

For my master’s thesis, I investigated the relationship between metropolitan area racial diversity and racial residential segregation over time; and for my dissertation, I explored how key experiences and outcomes of Latinx students at elite American colleges and universities vary across race and class lines, and not always in expected ways.