Laura Isabel Serna was born in Los Angeles into a working class Mexican-American family with roots in the Mexican states of Jalisco and Durango. She received a BA in Religious Studies at UC Berkeley before completing a master's degree in Christianity and Culture at Harvard Divinity School. She expanded her interest in cultural history in the History of American Civilization program (now American Studies) at Harvard University. When she received the PhD in 2006 her dissertation was awarded both the John Henry Gabriel Prize from the American Studies Association and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies' dissertation award. She held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Humanities Research Center at Rice University in Houston, Texas and then headed farther south to Florida State University where she was a member of the history faculty. She returned to her native Los Angeles in 2010. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Division of Cinema and Media Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. There she teaches courses in international film history, historiography, Latin American cinema and Latino/a film and media. She lives in Long Beach, California with her daughter in a multigenerational household that includes, a chigi, Wendell, a ratcha, Rio, and a cat, Pancha.