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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Andrea Ferraro
2017-2018
Field(s) of Study: Comparative Literature
Mentor: Marissa Lopez

Andrea Ferraro came to UCLA via the Inland Empire with several hundred books and one gray cat. Her research examines the treatment of race and identity in Latin American science fiction, focusing primarily on Mexico and the Southern Cone. Science fiction is the genre of thought experiments, not only of future technologies but of the future human. How do these nations synthesize their myriad cultural histories with visions of what is to come?

Berenice Gomez
2010-2011
Field(s) of Study: Spanish
Mentor: Hector Calderon

Berenice is entering her senior year at UCLA, and her major is Spanish with a focus on 20th century Hispanic literature. She is in the honors program, a Mellon Mays Fellow, an Undergraduate Research Fellow, and also an Undergraduate Librarian Fellow. Berenice is focusing her research within the area of Hispanic literature because it is crucial to understanding certain political movements during the 20th century. Her research deals with understanding and analyzing the writer’s perspective of the student movement and massacre in Tlatelolco, Mexico in 1968. She plans to attend graduate school to receive a master’s degree and a doctorate in Hispanic literature. Berenice is the first in her family to enter to college, and she wants to continue to inspire others to fulfill their dreams of higher education.

Priscilla Gonzalez Sainz
2009-2010
Field(s) of Study: Comparative Literature
Mentor: Elizabeth A. Marchant, Muriel McClendon

Priscilla Gonzalez Sainz is senior at UCLA pursing Comparative Literature Departmental Honors and College Honors. Her degree is concentrated in Comparative Literature (emphasizing in English, Spanish, and Chicana Literature), Chicana/o Studies, Cultural History, and Film. As a Mellon Mays Fellow, her research areas are Film Studies, Cultural History, and Women’s narratives. She currently is working on her thesis: Winning Over Hearts and Minds with Nostalgia. Focusing on Cuba, Priscilla is studying films and texts from post-revolutionary Cuba to critically analyze how these authors create a discourse through representations of Nostalgia. She is also currently working on a short documentary project on loving again after a breakup. During her time at UCLA, Priscilla has participated in Student Media as well as research, serving as La Gente’s Editor in Chief from 2008 to 2009. She was an exchange student at the University of Kent in England for a semester, studying Cultural History, Museum Studies, and World Literature. Priscilla wishes to pursue graduate study in literature and film as well as continue writing for local publications. She is also interested in working with youth to utilize the formats of documentary film and journalism to convey their experiences. Priscilla grew up in Santa Ana with her mother Arcelia and two sisters Araceli and Angelica, all of who have provided moral support in her academic and personal endeavors.

Jekara Govan
2016-2017
Field(s) of Study: English
Mentor: Marissa Lopez

Jekara is a third year English major interested in pursuing her PhD in English. More specifically, she hopes to focus her doctoral studies on post-modern U.S. and British literatures by authors of color. Her current research project centers on an investigation of 20th century American novels by women of color and their portrayals of internalized gendered racism among Black and Latina girls from and in the U.S. This work aims to reveal the ways in which literary portrayals of this phenomenon are informed by and inform our understandings of the real social experience of U.S girls of color. Beyond the classroom and engagement in research, Jekara is involved in UCLA’s Vice-Provost Initiative for Pre-College Scholars (VIPS) — a social justice-oriented college access program for high school students of color—as an academic year mentor and the Academic Advancement Program’s Humanities Peer Learning Lab as a Peer Learning Facilitator for the English 10 series (prerequisite classes for the major). She also serves on the executive board of UCLA’s Afrikan Women’s Collective and is a co-founder of Asterisk, a campus journal comprising of students’ creative and scholarly works centering on issues of social identity.

Mai-Lin Graves
2018-2019
Field(s) of Study: English
Mentor: Caroline Streeter

 

Mai-Lin Valeria Graves is a third-year, World Arts and Culture major. As a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellow, Mai-Lin’s research focuses on Afrofuturism literature as a tool to rethink the idea of liberation for all people, Black in particular. Her interest in this work comes from being an avid science/speculative fiction reader and writer. She hopes this research will uncover the power of the written word to Black youth. Mai-Lin is also an active member of the UCLA community. She has served as the Afrikan Student Union Gender and Sexuality Coordinator, a VIP Scholars mentor (a high school college access program), a Peer Learning Facilitator (PLF) for Comparative Literature and currently serves as a PLF for the UCLA Undergraduate Writing Center.  In her free time, Mai-Lin likes to write poetry, read everything, and go to the gym.