Vanessa Cruz Nichols

Vanessa Cruz Nichols

Assistant Professor, Political Science


  • Ph.D., Political Science, University of Michigan, 2017
  • M.A., Political Science, University of Michigan, 2012
  • B.A., Political Science and Economics, DePaul University

About Vanessa Cruz Nichols

Dr. Cruz Nichols is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Indiana University. She is a faculty affiliate with the Latino Studies Program and Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society at Indiana University.  Her research interests are situated within American Politics, political participation, public opinion, public health and race and ethnicity politics. Her book project, tentatively titled “Catalyzing Political Action: Latinxs Rising to the Challenge with Messages of Peril and Promise," re-assesses the hypothesis that threat is a sufficient mobilizing catalyst for political activism. The book focuses on mobilizing messages surrounding immigration issue activism and the Latinx electorate. In addition to her book project, her existing research projects also involve the extent to which elite messaging strategies impact citizen engagement within civic and political domains.  Some of her publications have focused on: 1.) the effects of threatening immigration policy environments and their spillover effects into political, civic engagement, and health domains among Latinxs, 2.) the racialized campaign cues minority candidates use to minimize the perceived outsider threat they pose to more conservative electorates, 3.) the role of religiosity in the 2020 Latinx vote, and 4.) explaining the importance of messaging frames in crisis communication, especially as it relates to countering COVID-19-skepticism among the most hard-hit communities. Dr. Cruz Nichols’ work has been published in Political Behavior; PS: Political Science and Politics; the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law; and Public Administration Review. 

Dr. Cruz Nichols earned her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Economics from DePaul University, where she was a McNair Scholar. She earned her PhD in Political Science from the University of Michigan. Her work has been supported by the Ford Foundation (Predoctoral Fellow, Dissertation Fellow) and National Science Foundation (2017). 

Since joining as an IU faculty member in 2019, she has taught Intro to American Politics (Y103), Media and Politics (Y321) and Race & Ethnicity Politics (Y329, Y661). During the Fall Semester of 2022, Dr. Cruz Nichols has been awarded an IU Writing Residential Fellowship with the IU Institute for Advance Study.