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 about the program here. See recent news of our alumni here.

Make a gift to the Graduate Fellows Program Fund here. 

Your gift will be used to provide training and mentorship to a new generation of scholars engaged in research on race, ethnicity, gender and class in the United States.

FIRST YEAR FELLOWS

Diana Casanova, Education

Diana Casanova is a Ph.D. candidate in Education whose research examines the policies and practices that build power for family and community stakeholders to affect social change. Her dissertation analyzes the ways that Oakland families participate in district-level governance, impact budgeting and planning decisions, and it investigates the relationship between democratic engagement and institutional change. Diana holds a B.S. in Journalism from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and an M.A. in Education from UC Berkeley.

 

 

Akilah Favors, Sociology

Akilah Favors is an energetic free-spirited Black activist who loves to smile. She is a Ph.D. student in Sociology at UC Berkeley who researches race, class, social movements, gentrification, and the politics of inclusion. Her doctoral work employs urban ethnography and in-depth interviews to explore how the Black middle-class mobilizes low-income renters against rampant displacement in her hometown, Atlanta, GA. She analyzes both division and solidarity between classes in Black mobilization efforts to reimagine strategies for resisting neighborhood whitening rooted in the legacy of systemic racism. Her work is supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Akilah received her B.A. in Sociology from Spelman College. Currently, she is a Chancellor’s Fellow and the associate director of the HBCU pipeline program, Summer Scholars of Race at UC Berkeley. In her spare time, Akilah loves weightlifting, biking, traveling, promoting Black businesses, competing in games, and hanging with family.

 

Fabián Fernández, Medical Anthropology

Fabián Fernández is a student in the joint UCSF-UCB M.D./Ph.D. program in Medical Anthropology. He researches issues of safety, workplace violence, and policing in U.S. Emergency Departments. In his time in the Bay Area, he has organized with healthcare workers from Do No Harm Coalition fighting against wage theft, evictions, and police sweeps. He has also worked to support individuals and families affected by police violence. He models his healing work from years of practice with Clínica Martín Baró, a student-run free clinic grounded in latin-american liberation psychology. He grounds himself in music, spoken word, somatic practices, and ancestral healing.

 

 

Nate Gong, Education

Nate Gong (江幸運) traces his ancestry to Toisan (Southern China), Transylvania (Romania), Alsace (France/Germany) and Essex (England) and was raised in unceded territory of Huichin, otherwise known as Oakland. A former high school teacher at his alma mater, he is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Education with a designated emphasis in Indigenous Language Revitalization. His research focuses on strategies for cultural revitalization in Indigenous diaspora. His dissertation is a collaborative research project with a Bay Area Pacific Islander educational non-profit involving place-based and multimodal arts-based methodologies to examine the potentialities for decolonial pedagogies whilst in diasporic transit. He is the father of two and committed to community-centered research, land and ocean stewardship, and compassionate and holistic educational futurities. Nate is the Asian American Research Center Graduate Fellow.

 

Brenda Mathias, Social Welfare

Brenda Mathias is a Ph.D. student in Social Welfare at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on urban spaces, youth well-being, social justice, community-based participatory research methods, and asset-based community development. Brenda currently serves as a pre-doctoral fellow with SOULLAB utilizing technology as an empowerment and organizing tool among communities of color. Prior to attending Berkeley, Brenda managed several randomized controlled trials evaluating youth summer jobs in Philadelphia. She has worked on community-led revitalization efforts in Cleveland, OH, and service coordination with urban public schools. Brenda holds a bachelors from Temple University and a masters from Case Western Reserve. 

 

 

Brie McLemore, Jurisprudence and Social Policy

Brie McLemore is a Ph.D. student in Jurisprudence and Social Policy with a designated emphasis in Science and Technology Studies. She has an M.P.P./M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Brandeis University and a B.A. in Anthropology and Gender Studies from New College of Florida. Her dissertation interrogates the adoption of technology in “Smart Cities” and the implications for surveillance. Brie is a Health Policy Research Scholar with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies Fellow, and a Technology and Human Rights Fellow at Taraaz + CITRIS Policy Lab. She also served as a William P. Heidrich Research Fellow at the University of Michigan and a Graduate Fellow at the Center for Technology, Society, and Policy at UC Berkeley. Brie is a proud Florida native who enjoys fencing, caring for her plants, and watching reality television with her dog Pickles.

 

 

Karen Villegas, Education

Karen Villegas is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. Karen’s dissertation analyzes the ways in which economic and language ideologies work together to socialize aspiring U.S. citizens to be literate in a ‘neoliberal’ ideation of citizenship. The context of the study is an adult, English as a Second Language (ESL), naturalization course with a focus on the social organization of the practices, the ideologies indexed in these practices, and the ensuing formations of literacies produced in these settings. Karen attends to the ways in which the social construction of language positions the learning of English as the gold standard for academic advancement and the prerequisite “to be” a productive citizen - a status characterized by an impossibility of never becoming and always becoming. Karen received her M.A. in Education from the University of California, Berkeley, and her B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles.

 

SECOND YEAR FELLOWS

Photo of Eduardo Bautista Duran

Eduardo Bautista Duran​, Jurisprudence and Social Policy

Eduardo Bautista Duran is a Ph.D. student in Jurisprudence and Social Policy at Berkeley Law. Originally from Michoacán, Mexico, Eduardo was raised in East San Jose, California. His work focuses on the development of police forces in early statehood California, particularly in Gold Rush-era San Francisco. This genealogical approach is designed to capture the rise of policing and other criminal justice institutions as California entered statehood and as San Francisco underwent an explosive transition from a bayside settlement to an international urban hub. In studying a period of intense social transformation, the project seeks to find the breaks and continuities with the emerging racial logics of the 19th century and to assess how they shaped the modernization and professionalization of policing.

 

 

 

 

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reelaviolette botts-ward, African Diaspora Studies

reelaviolette botts-ward is a homegirl, an artist, and a nontraditional community curator from Philadelphia, PA. Currently a doctoral candidate in African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley, her research explores Black women's healing spaces in Oakland as sites of radical self making and world making. She centers everyday round the way Blackgirl methodology, using Black feminist geographies as a framework to theorize Black women’s quotidian practices of creative innovation in the wake of displacement. ree received her BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Spelman College and her MA in African American Studies with an Anthropology concentration from UCLA. Her work has been supported by the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design’s Arcus Endowment Fund, the UC Berkeley Arts Research Center, the Social Science Research Council, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, among others. Her book mourning my inner[blackgirl]child was published by Nomadic Press in 2021 

 

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Caleb Dawson, Education

Caleb Dawson is a playful community organizer who loves to dance and indulge in food that tastes too good to be vegan. He is a Ph.D. candidate in Education and activist ethnographer who studies the gendered racial politics of institutional change and the political economy of inclusion in higher education, drawing principally from Black Feminist Studies and Sociology. Caleb convenes the Critical University Studies working group at UC Berkeley and participates in the Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. He graduated with his B.A. in Sociology and Economics from Gonzaga University, and completed his M.A. in Education at UC Berkeley. Son of a Black father and Ethiopian American mother, Caleb has found himself at home with loved ones on the unceded land of the Ohlone people, now called the San Francisco Bay Area of California.

 

 

 

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Nallely Mejia, Sociology

Nallely Mejia is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at UC Berkeley. Her research interests include wealth and household finances, social mobility, and health disparities among Latino families in the United States. For her dissertation, Nallely examines how immigrant parents and their U.S.-born adult children form understandings about money and navigate and create wealth in the San Joaquin Valley amid unique social and cultural tensions. Nallely holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Sociology from American University in Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

Photo of David PhiloxeneDavid Philoxene, Education

David Philoxene is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on geographies of race and violence, including how Black youth experience, locate, and create safety. His dissertation employs interviews and youth mapping artifacts to examine the sense- and spatial-making practices of Black youth who navigate violence across schooling and neighborhood in Oakland, California. He is committed to (re)telling stories of resistance, survival, and possibility, and to studying educational and community spaces that exemplify this. He has a B.A. in Sociology and African American Studies from UC Berkeley, a M.Ed. and Secondary Teaching Credential from UCLA, and has been an NIH/NIGMS Predoctoral Fellow at UCSF and Chancellor’s Fellow at UC Berkeley.

 

 

Photo of Alicia Sheares

Alicia Sheares, Sociology 

Alicia Sheares is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at UC Berkeley where she studies race and ethnicity, immigration, inequality, and entrepreneurship. Her dissertation examines the role of networks and organizations in facilitating or inhibiting Black tech entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley and Atlanta. She received her B.A. in International Studies from Spelman College where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude. She then spent two years living in Brazil as a Fulbright Fellow. Upon returning from Brazil, Alicia received an M.Sc. in Migration Studies from the University of Oxford. In her free time, Alicia enjoys running, traveling, watching Brazilian movies, and exploring the city of Oakland.

 

 

GRADUATE STUDENT COORDINATOR

Photo of Isabel García Valdivia

Isabel García Valdivia, Sociology

Isabel García Valdivia is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at UC Berkeley. Based on a mixed-method approach, her dissertation explores the effects of legal status for Mexican older adult immigrants in the U.S. and return migrants to Mexico. In particular, this research focuses on the factors that facilitate or hinder how older adult immigrants access economic, family, medical and psychological support and the strategies they deploy as they age. She investigates how these differ across countries and by legal status. Isabel received her B.A. in Chicanx Latinx Studies and Sociology from Pomona College and her M.A. in Sociology from UC Berkeley. 

Isabel was a Graduate Fellow from 2019-21 and now coordinates the program for the first year Fellows.

 

 

Make a gift to the Graduate Fellows Program Fund here. 

 

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