ISSI People

Leadership & Staff

Brandi T. SummersBrandi T. Summers

Interim Director, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Brandi Summers received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is the author of Black in Place: The Spatial Aesthetics of Race in a Post-Chocolate City (UNC Press 2019). Her interdisciplinary research examines the relationship between and function of race, space, urban infrastructure, and architecture. Her second book, Oakland Echoes: Reimagining and Reclaiming the Black City (under contract with the University of California Press), explores the roots and routes of resistance and reclamation, not only as a response to urban gentrification and related economic policies, but also as a quest to think about the past, present, and future of a Black city. Professor Summers is a Contributing Writer for Places Journal and has published several articles that appear in both scholarly and popular publications, including the New York TimesThe Boston GlobeAntipode, and Urban Geography

Stephen SmallStephen Small

Director (on sabbatical Spring 2024)

Stephen Small is Director of the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI) and Professor of African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley. He earned his Ph.D. in Sociology at UC Berkeley where he was a graduate student trainee in what is now ISSI’s Graduate Fellows Program. His teaching focuses primarily on African Americans in the post-Civil Rights period, but he necessarily makes comparisons with earlier periods and with other racial and ethnic groups in the contemporary period. His current research is organized around the social scientific analysis of contemporary racial formations and addresses links between historical structures and contemporary manifestations of racial formations in the United States and elsewhere in the African Diaspora. Axes of stratification shaped by gender/race intersections, and by class and nation are central to his work.

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Deborah LustigDeborah Freedman Lustig

Associate Director, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Deborah Freedman Lustig is a cultural anthropologist whose research has focused on gender and education in the United States and Kenya, where she was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in 2004-5. Lustig earned her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan. Her articles about teenage mothers have been published in the journals Anthropology and Education Quarterly and Childhood and in the edited volume Childhood, Youth, and Social Work in Transformation:  Implications for Policy and Practice (Columbia University Press, 2009). Her recent research on risk and violence among young adults coming of age in Oakland, California has been published in Children and Youth Services Review and in the edited volume Education and the Risk Society: Theories, Discourse, and Risk Identities in Education Contexts (Sense Publishers 2012) and is available here(link is external). From 2006-2011 Lustig coordinated the research and training activities of the Center on Culture, Immigration, and Youth Violence Prevention, a project of the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues. In addition to helping direct the overall research mission of the Institute, she is the Academic Coordinator for the ISSI research centers, as well one of the Co-Directors of the Graduate Fellows Program

Pablo GonzalezPablo Gonzalez

Graduate Fellows Program Co-Director, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

In addition to serving as Gradute Fellows Program Co-Director, Dr. Pablo Gonzalez is a continuing lecturer in Chicanx and Latinx Studies and Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. He is the recent recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award (2022). He is also the recipient of the Chancellor's Public Service Award for Community Engaged Teaching. Dr. Gonzalez holds a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in Anthropology and a BA in Chicano Studies from UC Berkeley. His research focuses on the impact of transnational indigenous social movements on Chicano activism in the United States and the relationships between race, migration, and dispossession in migrant Latinx communities in the US. His research interests include social movements, urban ethnography, identity formation, and racial formation.

Maxwell VanderwarkerMaxwell Vanderwarker

Chief Administrative Officer, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Maxwell Vanderwarker is ISSI’s Chief Administrative Officer. He received his BA in English from UC Berkeley, where he was involved in LGBT+ leadership with Oscar Wilde House. After graduation, he transitioned into Human Resources and finance and worked with a variety of small tech startups in the Bay Area, at the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources, and previously as ISSI’s Administrative Manager. Most recently, he was the Operations Officer at the UCSF HEAL Initiative, a global health fellowship focused on providing health care to resource-denied communities both in the global south and in the United States. He spends his free time tending to his two feline daughters, Sriracha and Larry, and writing LGBT+ forward creative fiction.

Katie OwensbyKatie Owensby

Program Coordinator, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Katie Owensby is a program coordinator for ISSI. She came to ISSI after serving as an Undergraduate Academic Advisor for the Society & Environment major in the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley. Prior to working in CNR, Katie worked for Cal Alumni Association as their Marketing Data and Reporting Manager. Katie earned her BA in Psychology from University of Redlands and her MA in Counseling Psychology from University of San Francisco. She has two children, a daughter in high school, and a son who is a first year in college on the east coast. She and her family recently relocated from the Bay Area to Washington State. Katie enjoys hiking with her beloved Golden Retriever, Hana, reading, and spending time playing games and watching movies with her family. She has a deep love for UC Berkeley and cannot imagine working anywhere else.

Robin MarshRobin Marsh

Senior Researcher, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Robin Marsh joined ISSI in 2014 as a Senior Researcher. She is a socio-economist with over 25 years of experience in international agriculture and rural development.  Marsh received her PhD from the Food Research Institute, Stanford University.  She subsequently worked for the World Vegetable Center on socio-economic and nutritional benefits of home/community gardening, and for the Food and Agriculture Organization on local institution strengthening for food security and sustainable rural livelihoods.  Marsh joined UC Berkeley in 2000 as Academic Coordinator of the Center for Sustainable Resource Development and Co-Director of the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program (2000-2013).  She has been a lecturer at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources since 2003, teaching in the field of Population, Environment & Development, and is Affiliate Faculty with The Blum Center for Developing Economies.

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Caleb DawsonCaleb Dawson

Lead Investigator, Black Lives at Cal

Caleb E. Dawson is the Lead Investigator of Black Lives at Cal(link is external) at UC Berkeley and a UC President's Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at UC Merced. A Black feminist sociologist, Dawson's research interrogates the political economies of care labor, institutional change, inclusion, and student loan debt in higher education. Dawson earned his PhD in Critical Studies of Race, Class, and Gender from UC Berkeley, and is a proud alumnus of ISSI's Graduate Fellows Program

Undergraduate Student Assistants

Graduate Student Assistants

ISSI Advisory Committee

ISSI Graduate Students