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

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.

Ree Botts, African Diaspora Studies

Ree Botts is a poet, artist, and 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 Black girl methodology, using Black feminist geographies as a framework to theorize quotidian practices of creative innovation that make Black women’s lives livable 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. She received a certificate of Global Urban Humanities and is pursuing a Designated Emphasis in Gender, Women, and Sexuality from UC Berkeley. 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, and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities.

Caleb Dawson, Education

Caleb Dawson is a playful community organizer and dance enthusiast who loves to think, feel, and connect without losing touch with the incommensurable. He is interested in how race, gender, and capitalism structure Black people's relationships to and experiences in higher education. His dissertation, an ethnography of the politics of institutional change, explores how antiblackness is reproduced and contested in processes meant to redress institutional racism. Caleb has also written about the political economy of student debt and of for-profit colleges, and convenes the Critical University Studies working group at UC Berkeley. Engaged with Black Feminist Studies and Sociology, Caleb is a Ph.D. student in the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley. 

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.

David Philoxene, Graduate School of 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.

Melanie Plasencia, Ethnic Studies

Melanie Plasencia (she/her) is a Ph.D. candidate in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation examines how older Latinxs in the U.S. negotiate the challenges of aging in the context of extreme poverty, deteriorating health, and diminishing government support. In 2018, Melanie’s research received an award from the Leading Latino Aging Conference, held at the University of Southern California. Her research has been supported by the AARP and, more recently, by the Center for Race and Gender and the Ford Foundation.

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 on 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.

SECOND YEAR FELLOWS

Blanca Gamez-Djokic, Education

Blanca Gamez-Djokic is a Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. Blanca’s research interests pivot around emotion, affect, critical pedagogy, schools, practices and processes of racialization, and school-community partnerships. Her dissertation research examines how teachers involved in a social justice-oriented research practice partnership make sense of their roles and in what ways and to what extent this partnership impacts teachers’ feelings and ideas around social justice. Blanca has a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology from Swarthmore College and an Ed.M. in Arts in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

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.

Santiago Molina, Sociology

Santiago Molina (he/him/el) is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on the development of standards of practice and classifications in scientific organizations. His dissertation project, How Science Produces Institutions: The Practice and Politics of Genome Editing, analyzes the institutionalization of CRISPR-Cas technology. Through participant observation, this dissertation project seeks to detail how scientists adopt CRISPR into their work and to explain how, when and under what conditions scientists articulate standards of practice that shape what counts as ethical genome editing. During his fellowship at ISSI he will focus on describing how scientists in the San Francisco Bay Area wield political power to shape the direction of clinical genome editing. Throughout his teaching career he has aimed to stimulate early career STEM students into thinking critically about the relationship between science and society.

Paula Winicki, Sociology

Paula Winicki is a Ph.D. student in Sociology at UC Berkeley, and her research explores how labor organizations effectively organize workers from disadvantaged backgrounds who lack power because of their ethnoracial, immigration, and criminal justice statuses. Throughout her professional life, Paula has been deeply involved in various campaigns on behalf of labor and immigrant rights issues, as a worker, a union organizer, and a researcher. She holds a BA from UC Berkeley and a Master’s in City Planning from MIT.

GRADUATE STUDENT COORDINATOR

Fantasia Painter, Ethnic Studies

Fantasia Painter is a Ph.D. candidate in Ethnic Studies, a National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellow, and a member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.  Hailing from Arizona by way of Columbia University, Fantasia’s interdisciplinary dissertation uses ethnography and archival research to examine the Tohono O’odham (TO), an indigenous community divided by the US-Mexico border in southern Arizona.  Specifically, it takes as a starting point the TO Nation’s recent announcement that it will not allow a US-Mexico border wall to be built on reservation land. Not only has the US-Mexico border wall served as a contemporary metonym for racialized US nationalism, culminating in the Trump presidency, but also “the wall” implicates conflicting US, State, and indigenous agendas. Thus, using race, nation, and Indigeneity, Fantasia’s dissertation examines the conditions of possibility and ultimately the stakes of “the wall” on indigenous land. Fantasia was a Graduate Fellow from 2018-20 and now coordinates the program for the first year Fellows.

Make a gift to the Graduate Fellows Program Fund here. 

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