Meet the team: Lillie Macias

Meet Lillie Macias, PhD, Director of Research and Evaluation

Where are you from?

My family moved around growing up. I was born in California, and I also lived in Utah, Texas, and New Jersey. 

Where do you feel most at home?

I feel at home whenever I’m with my family and friends. I grew up taking long car trips with my dad to visit family in California, so I also feel at home on the road. 

What inspires you, professionally and personally?

I am inspired by my amazing team of researchers and students. Over the years I have had the privilege of working closely with Nancy Nava (research manager), Rebecca Rodriguez and Josie Serrata (previous Research and Evaluation Directors), and Julia Perilla, my mentor at Georgia State University in the Clinical and Community Psychology program. Since I presented at my first research conference as a student, I have been aware of the shortage of Latina women in higher education with expertise in domestic violence prevention and research. I am motivated to continue Julia’s legacy by supporting the next generation of Latin@ researchers and allies.

In terms of your work for the Esperanza United, what are your areas of expertise or what areas are particularly interesting to you?

I have worked and been interested in cultural-specific research and intervention since I was an undergraduate student in Psychology. I value using participatory methods to engage community members in research and evaluation and am excited about our center’s continued work with youth participatory action research (YPAR), and looking at alternative models to strengthen our response to dating and family violence like restorative justice. I am also interested in the concept of collective trauma and working with interdisciplinary teams to examine the impact and response of Latin@ communities to socio-natural disasters as they intersect with gender-based violence. 

Share one thing you have learned, big or small, doing your work.

We rely heavily on the written and spoken word in trauma research and practice. But images, art, and collective activity also offer forms of expression and healing. In interviewing survivors of disaster, I remember one participant noting that she had ‘no words,’ for her experience. Despite the difficulty in sharing stories of loss, participants also can find catharsis in creative expression or connecting with others with the same lived experience. The NLN Research and Evaluation Center is looking for ways to incorporate nonverbal storytelling through photography and art. 

Who inspires you?

My son is among the many individuals that inspire me. 

What do you do to relax, de-stress or recharge your batteries?

As a trauma research-practitioner, I have found that a balance of both rest and moving my body is important to meet the demands of my work. I meditate with a cafecito every morning, and I love to go outside and relax in a hammock. I also practice martial arts or yoga at least 5-6 days a week. When COVID-19 started and businesses shut down, I started lifting weights. I also regularly finish a pint of ice cream in one sitting as part of my self-care routine. 

Why have you chosen to do this kind of work?

I’m not sure I chose this work as much as the work chose me. As a single mother, I didn’t think I would be successful in graduate school. I was invited to this work by friends and colleagues who believed in me, and I hope to continue to lift up and invite others.  

What is your favorite food?

I would have to say tacos, the one food I could eat consistently for days on end. Am I speaking from experience? Yes. Some favorites in my house are bean and cheese and chicken mole. 

What is your favorite book?

A couple books of special significance to me are The Odyssey by Homer and Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros. One sparked my interest in mythology and stories, and the other in writing.