Graduate Fellows

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Founded in 1976, the Graduate Fellows Program (GFP) provides an interdisciplinary, intergenerational, and inclusive environment for research and training at the Berkeley campus. The GFP plays an integral part in training scholars to address the pressing challenges that face California, the nation, and the world. Read more here.


Héctor Beltrán, Anthropology

Héctor Beltrán is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology with a B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from M.I.T. He is a California native, born and raised in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles. His dissertation research ethnographically investigates the circulation of emerging forms of hacking and tech entrepreneurship between Mexico and the San Francisco Bay Area. During the ISSI Graduate Fellows Program, Hector's working paper will focus on the construction of Latinidades within spaces where hackers and tech entrepreneurs come together to develop projects in the name of empowering a Latin@ collective. Hector leads the Latin@s and Tech Initiative at the Center for Latino Policy Research, which aims to connect scholars from local universities, community members, and representatives of the tech industry to help critically shape relevant policies meant to increase the representation of people of color in the tech domain.

Esther Cho, Sociology

Esther Cho is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology specializing in immigration and race/ethnicity. For her master's research, she interviewed Korean and Mexican undocumented young adults and found that the availability of non-profit and for-profit ethnic niches has a significant role in differentially shaping their work trajectories. For her dissertation, she continues to examine the intersection of race/ethnicity and legal status by exploring how Asian undocumented young adults - a group at the nexus of two dissonant racial tropes of the 'model minority' and the 'illegal alien' - navigate diverse social institutions and understand their sense of belonging. Before coming to Berkeley, she worked at the Social Science Research Council and received a B.A. in International Comparative Studies from Duke University and M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Cynthia Ledesma, Ethnic Studies

Cynthia Ledesma is a Ph.D. student in Ethnic Studies. Cynthia's research focuses on mapping the spatial constructions of race in the making of the city of Chicago, where she grew up on the south side. Her primary emphasis is on federal and local urban renewal policy and its effects on ghettoization and the concentration of poverty along racial lines. A first generation doctoral student, she received her B.A. in Latina/Latino Studies and Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her M.A. in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley.

Zawadi Rucks-Ahidiana, Sociology

Zawadi Rucks-Ahidiana is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology specializing in the study of race, class, and space.  Her dissertation analyzes media portrayals of gentrification in San Francisco, Oakland, and Baltimore between 1990 and 2014 to understand how gentrification is represented in the media and how that varies over time and place.  Zawadi holds a M.P.A. in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy from New York University and a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of Maryland, College Park.  Prior to coming to Berkeley, Zawadi worked in evaluation research at MDRC and the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College.

Jennifer Smith, Ethnic Studies

Jen Smith is a PhD student in Ethnic Studies. She completed her undergraduate degree in English with an emphasis in Literature and the Environment at the University of Alaska Southeast and received her master's degree in Comparative Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley. In her dissertation work, she brings attention to the coterminous construction of Nature and Native in Northern spaces, and how these categories inform land claims settlements. Specifically, Jen is interested in how indigenous communities of Alaska evolve and operate in the context of national desire for fossil fuels, environmental desire to experience the "last frontier", as well as a burgeoning global understanding of the Arctic as a barometer for climate change. Jen is a recipient of the UC Berkeley Chancellor's Fellowship and the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship.

Melody Tulier, Public Health

Melody Tulier is a Dr.P.H. candidate in the School of Public Health. Her training has concentrated on theory and research design using mixed methods approaches in the fields of social epidemiology - the social distribution and social determinants of states of health in populations - and urban health inequities. Her interdisciplinary dissertation research will use both quantitative and qualitative methods to understand the relationship between gentrification and health in Oakland, California. Melody has more than ten years of hands-on experience in evaluation planning and implementation, mixed methods research and analysis, training and capacity building across sectors such as housing, HIV/AIDS, community health policy, community development, and economic security. Melody holds a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College, a M.P.H. from UC Berkeley and a Master in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Kelechi Uwaezuoke, Public Health

Kelechi Uwaezuoke is a Dr.P.H. candidate in the School of Public Health. Her current research interests include exploring the lived experiences of Under-represented Minority (URM) premed students in the UC system and the role of pipeline programs in increasing health workforce diversity. After receiving her BA from Berkeley in Social Welfare and Ethnic Studies and serving as a middle school teacher in Richmond, Kelechi went on to receive her MPH from Drexel University. As Health Education Program Manager for the Solano Coalition for Better Health, African American Health Disparities Elimination Project, she worked for three years developing, implementing and managing programs aimed towards increasing access to healthcare and reducing health inequities in Solano County. Kelechi spent three years as Manager for the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) and undergraduate career/graduate education advisor at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. 



Dani Carrillo, Sociology

Dani Carrillo is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology specializing in the fields of immigration, race/ethnicity, and urban sociology. For her Master's research, she analyzed the Trajectories and Origins survey in France, and she found that exclusion, and more specifically religious exclusion, hinders citizenship behavior. Her dissertation research brings her back to the Bay Area, where she explores how place and space uniquely shapes the social and economic integration of low-income immigrants. Her work is generously supported by the Ford Foundation and National Science Foundation, and she holds a B.A. in Sociology and French Literature from Pomona College and a M.A. in Sociology from UC Berkeley.

Caitlin Keliiaa, Ethnic Studies

Caitlin "Katie" Keliiaa is a doctoral student in Ethnic Studies. She completed her bachelor's degree at UC Berkeley and received her first Master's degree in American Indian Studies at UCLA. Caitlin is a Ford Predoctoral Fellow and a Graduate Fellow with the Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues. She is a Graduate Student in residence at the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues and a Graduate Mentor with the Student Mentoring and Research Teams (SMART) program. Caitlin's dissertation examines the mechanics of federal assimilation/education programs, specifically the institution of domestic service and its impact upon Native women and their subsequent generations. Caitlin has a passion for heritage languages, intersectional community histories, oral histories and archival research. She is a member of the Yerington Paiute Tribe and is a descendant of the Washoe Tribe of CA & NV. She is a partner to Washoe language immersion programming and manages Pathways to Success, an undergraduate Native mentor program at UC Berkeley.

Yang Lor, Sociology

Yang Lor is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology. His dissertation examines how social class shapes where high-achieving students apply to college, particularly why low-income, high-achieving students are less likely than their middle- to high-income peers to apply to highly selective colleges. A Hmong refugee himself, Yang has written about the educational experiences of Hmong American high school students in Fresno, California and Hmong political participation in the U.S. He received his undergraduate degree in sociology from Stanford University with a minor in Asian American Studies.

Peter Nelson, Anthropology

Peter Nelson is a Coast Miwok person and an enrolled citizen of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. Peter is a Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology, specializing in community-engaged archaeology and paleoethnobotany. His dissertation research investigates the history of environmental change and Indigenous landscape management in his tribe's territory in order to advocate for and support sustainable restoration and management policies in parks and open spaces that incorporate Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Peter is the recipient of the Eugene Cota Robles Graduate Fellowship, the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship, the Society for American Archaeology's NSF Scholarship for Archaeological Training for Native Americans and Native Hawaiians, the Joseph. A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues Graduate Fellowship, and the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. Peter received his B.A. in Anthropology and English from the University of Washington.

Carlos Penilla, Public Health

Carlos Penilla is a Dr.P.H. Candidate at the School of Public Health and a Kaiser Permanente Public Health Scholar. For the past 18 years, his work in public health has focused on improving the lives of Spanish-speaking children and families, through his research at UCSF and his consulting work with community organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. His current research explores Latino parents' experiences and perceptions of the sociocultural and structural barriers in urban areas, which make it difficult to feed their children healthful foods. Specifically, he is interested in how these factors in turn influence the development of overweight and obesity in children ages 2-5. Carlos earned a B.A. in Psychology and a M.S. in Clinical Psychology from San Francisco State University.

Christyna Serrano, Education

Christyna Serrano is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Policy, Organization, Measurement and Evaluation (POME) program of the Graduate School of Education. Her dissertation research is a qualitative case study of the implementation of a federal policy -- the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act -- at the local level -- the Oakland Unified School District. Christyna situates this work within the overlapping realms of schooling, education policy, and the welfare state, and draws on food systems and contemporary education policy implementation literature. A former Chancellor's Fellow, Christyna, along with other faculty and community collaborators, was recently awarded a Berkeley Food Institute Seed Grant to study the 'Rethinking School Lunch Oakland' initiative and its implementation. She received both a B.A. in Sociology and Social Welfare and an M.A. in Education Policy from UC Berkeley.

Miriam Solis, City and Regional Planning

Miriam Solis is a Ph.D. Candidate and UC Chancellor's Fellow in the Department of City and Regional Planning in the College of Environmental Design. Her research focuses on the politics of urban infrastructure; she considers the spatial distribution of environmental burdens, as well as the movements and policy interventions that aim to build greater equity into capital plans. Miriam's dissertation project highlights how adversely impacted low-income communities and communities of color contest and inform water infrastructure improvement programs. Her scholarly pursuits are informed by professional practice, including work for the cities of San Francisco, New York, and Richmond, CA, as well as the Greenlining Institute. She holds a B.A. from UC Berkeley and a Master in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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