MELLON MAYS UNDERGRADUATE FELLOWS

John Jeries Abughattas
2017-2018
Field(s) of Study: Philosophy
Mentor: Alexander Jacob Julius

John is a junior-transfer in the philosophy department at UCLA. He is interested in moral and political philosophy, Kant, and feminist philosophy. His current research project aims to incorporate stateless persons into the prevailing theories of global justice. John hopes to use his philosophy to further the goals of human liberation and solidarity.

Alonzo Ackerman
2016-2017
Field(s) of Study: Sociology
Mentor: Otto Santa Ana

Alonzo Ackerman’s research project looks at the changes in government discourse towards normalistas, low-income teachers college students from rural Mexico. In more broader terms, his academic interests are social movements and Latin America. Alonzo is a third-year Sociology major at the University of California Los Angeles and transferred from Southwestern College (Chula Vista, CA) in 2016. In the last three years Alonzo has volunteered at shelters for migrants and collaborated with non-profit organizations related to migrants’ rights in the US and Mexico. His interest in this kind of work stems from his own experiences growing up in the Tijuana-San Diego border region.

Alejandro Alvarado
2019-2020
Field(s) of Study: Comparative Literature
Mentor: Aamir Mufti

Alejandro is an immigrant, transfer and first-generation student majoring in Comparative Literature and planning to pursue a PhD in the same academic field. He is researching the immigrant identity and immigrant experience through a literary perspective that focuses on literature from the 20th century to the present. Among the authors he will study are contemporary Mexican writer Yuri Herrera, the American writer Upton Sinclair, and the Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid, as well as theory from Hannah Arendt and Edward Said. The intent of his research is to add a literary perspective that expands the immigrant discussion.

Austin Alvarez
2016-2017
Field(s) of Study: History
Mentor: Fernando Perez-Montesinos

Austin Alvarez is a History major at UCLA and his research project is titled “Saint or Sinner: Religious Evaluations of Pancho Villa”. He is researching what the diverse demographics of Northern Mexico said about Villa in their religious rhetoric. Was Villa perceived as a heretic or savior?

Christine Beck
2014-2015
Field(s) of Study: Art History
Mentor: Charlene Villaseñor-Black

Christine Beck transferred to UCLA as a junior from MiraCosta College in San Diego, CA with a major in Art History. She was born and raised in San Diego and has long had an interest in both art and architecture. One of Christine’s favorite books as a child was book cataloging Vincent Van Gogh’s work. Van Gogh remains one of Christine’s favorite artists, though her research focuses on something quite different. Christine’s research analyzes the Mudéjar motif as it traveled from Islamic Iberia to Colonial Lima; she has interests in the possible implications of this inter-societal transference, as well as interests in how the global exchange of the Mudéjar motif alters out perceptions of colonialism. She is currently working with Professor Charlene Villaseñor-Black on creating a historiographic review of the motif and initiating commentary on what this means for Art History.

Alexis Canelo
2020-2021
Field(s) of Study: History
Mentor: Marissa K. Lopez

Alexis Canelo is a transfer student from Los Angeles Pierce College majoring in History at UCLA. She was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. She is interested in how California’s often unacknowledged past continues to influence its present politics and culture. At the forefront of her research is the 1892 lynching of Francisco Torres in Santa Ana, California. She is expanding on the scholarship of Southern California, Latinx identity, labor, class, and racial violence through analyzing archived newspaper articles surrounding the Torres case.

Amalia Castañeda
2009-2010
Field(s) of Study: Political Science, Women’s Studies
Mentor:

Amalia Castañeda is a senior Political Science (Concentration: Theory) and Women’s Studies (Concentration: Politics, Race and Gender) double major, graduating cum laude Spring 2011 with College Honors and Departmental Honors in Women’s Studies. She owes much of her undergraduate success to the AAP Research Rookies program and to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. Her Mellon and Women’s Studies Honors Thesis focuses on the identity formation of Latina youth in south Los Angeles, critically assessing the concepts of citizenship and civic identity. In an opportunity to further expand her thesis research, along with 14 other undergrads, she was granted the opportunity to facilitate/teach a course she initiated and developed titled “Rethinking Citizenship: Immigrant Youth, Gender and Civic Identity.” Spring 2011 she facilitated her course with the support of her advisor Dr. Sharon Bays. Inspiration for her Thesis and her USIE course came from the C.A.M.B.I.O. program; C.A.M.B.I.O. is a grassroots, mentoring program developed in 2008 by two of her UCLA peers Nicole Lozano and Julie Alarcon. She is currently part of the C.A.M.B.I.O. mentoring staff, run by the chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, an academic sorority for which she was a founding member and President in the 2009-2010 year. Aside from her work with Lambda Theta Alpha, C.A.M.B.I.O., undergraduate research and Facilitating/Tutoring UCLA Political Science courses, she was also actively involved with “Grupo Folklorico de UCLA,” a Mexican Folklore cultural dance group. Outside UCLA, she supported several community projects, including an internship with M.A.L.D.E.F. and volunteer work conducting workshops at the Lynwood High School Alumni College Conference (her alma mater). Overall her research experience and community outreach molded her graduate school goals. She hopes to pursue a PhD in Education with a concentration in Political Science and/or Women’s Studies, wherein she hopes to continue focusing her research on issues related to Latina/o immigrant communities.

Herman Chavez
2020-2021
Field(s) of Study: Ethnomusicology, Comparative Literature
Mentor: Cesar Favila

Herman Luis Chavez (he/him/his) is double majoring in Ethnomusicology and Comparative Literature. His research considers the use of music as a tool for constructing ideology, focusing especially on race, ethnicity, and power in Latin America and the United States. His current thesis project looks at echoes of colonialism in the musical ideologies and institutions of late 20th century Bolivia. He looks at composer and musicologist Atiliano Auza León, understanding his works through postcolonial theory and placing them in the sociopolitical context of Bolivian arts at the time. More broadly, his research interests include popular music, critical race studies, folkloric and Indigenous music, diaspora and migration, poetics and queerness, decolonial and postcolonial theory, queer of color critique, U.S. Latinx studies, and Latin American, Bolivian, and Andean cultural studies.

Jessikah Diaz
2017-2018
Field(s) of Study: English
Mentor: Juan Sanchez

Jessikah Diaz was born and raised in Santa Paula, California. She joins the 10th cohort as a 3rd-year transfer student and plans to pursue a PhD in English. Jessikah is an English major interested in studying 18th and 19th century British literature. More specifically, she is interested in the relationship between authorship identity and recurring gender representations, and is currently studying the relationship between British author William Blake and his representation of female sexuality. Going forward, she would like to study other authors, like Blake, who have used literature to politicize topics and resist convention. However, her work is not concerned with these authors because they were radicals, rather it uses historical and biographical criticism to view the identity behind the radical. Her results will consider how certain freedoms are represented, who represents them, and for what purpose.

Kayne Doughty
2020-2021
Field(s) of Study: History, Asian American Studies
Mentor: Robin Kelley

Kayne is a second year transfer from Hartnell College in Salinas, CA. He is currently pursuing a major in History and a minor in Asian American Studies at UCLA. His research interests center around the histories of Asian American social movements, Asian American intellectuals, the Asian American Diaspora, and Marxism among other things. He has had work published in Quaestio, the UCLA Undergraduate History Journal. As a Mellon Mays undergraduate fellow, Kayne’s current research focuses on the radical tradition of Asian American activism, using the case study of the emergence of Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) in the wake of the murder of Vincent Chin. Additionally, he is working on a project with the Asian Pacific Coalition (APC), a student organization here at UCLA that works on issues related to the Asian American Pacific Islander community and seeks to dismantle systems of oppression in society. Outside of his studies, Kayne serves as the Historic Preservation Coordinator for Asian Pacific Coalition (APC). He also enjoys playing jazz fusion and classic R&B on the guitar, and swimming. He is also a huge Motown fan.

Olivia Dowdle
2019-2020
Field(s) of Study: English
Mentor: Mitchum A. Huehls

Olivia is a junior-transfer from Fullerton College majoring in American Literature and Cultures at UCLA. She is interested in diaspora studies and theory, postcolonial literature, critical race studies, and studies in the novel. As a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellow, Olivia is focused on examining transgenerational trauma in novels wrestling with diaspora and how folklore and landscapes of the motherland act as transmitters of trauma in these communities.  Through a departure from traditional Anglocentric trauma theory, Olivia seeks to understand how culturally specific experiences of trauma cross borders of both space and time. She hopes her research will increase awareness of the cultural roles and legacies of trauma being experienced by diasporic peoples and those affected by forced migration in the modern day.

Kierra Duncan
2018-2019
Field(s) of Study: English
Mentor: Yogita Goyal

Kierra is a junior-transfer majoring in English from Los Angeles Mission College planning to pursue a Ph.D. in English. She is passionate about African American literature, African diaspora studies, postcolonial literature and theory, and the novel genre. As a Mellon Mays Fellow, she is examining the historical treatment of black women’s reproduction through contemporary Black American fiction. Her work is centered on the evolution of the biopolitics of slavery through forced sterilization, welfare reforms, and surrogacy, asking how authors like Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, and Colson Whitehead have responded to these injustices through the careful melding of the neo-slave narrative and speculative fiction. Kierra hopes this research will contribute to the expansion of rigid notions of reproductive liberty in the contemporary moment by placing the distinct experiences of black women in the forefront.

Sandy Enriquez
2010-2011
Field(s) of Study: Anthropology
Mentor: Charles Stanish

Sandy Enriquez is a fourth-year anthropology major and community college transfer student. In addition to MMUF, she participates in departmental and college honors. She also acts as Board Advisor for the newly revived Undergraduate Anthropological Association. Her research interests include the anthropological study of tourism, food, race/ethnicity, and modern day indigenous cultures. After graduation, she will take a year off to conduct more fieldwork in Puno, Peru and explore how two ethnic groups (Aymara & Quechua) conceptualize race/identity. She plans to pursue her doctorate in anthropology once she returns.

Linda Esquivel
2016-2017
Field(s) of Study: History
Mentor: Frank Tobias Higbie

Linda Esquivel is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow at UCLA. She is pursuing a bachelor’s in History and a minor in Labor and Workplace Studies. She grew up in the California’s conservative Central Valley which inspired her to research the history of the “Other California.”  She is currently working on her senior thesis, which seeks to explore the historical relationship between undocumented workers, native citizens, and law enforcement in Kern County. Her research will contribute to national discussions on police brutality and immigration reform in the age of Trumpism.

Julia Fernandez
2012-2013
Field(s) of Study: Art History
Mentor: Charlene Villasenor-Black

Julia Fernandez is a fourth year undergraduate Art History student, and a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. She has been working with professors Judy Baca and Charlene Villasenor Black on her research titled, “Political Posters and the United Farm Workers: Social, Political, Cultural Revolution in the U.S., and Mexico’s Artistic and Revolutionary Influence.” She will be presenting her research at multiple conferences this year as she finishes her final year at UCLA. Julia hopes to enter graduate school in the fall of 2013 to pursue a Ph.D. in Art History. Her goal is to enter the field of academia as a professor at the college or university level.