These bios were current at the time of the award.
Phenocia Bauerle is the first and current director of Native American Student Development (NASD) at UC Berkeley and a citizen of the Apsáalooke (Crow) Nation of Montana. Prior to working at Berkeley, she served as Director of the Diversity Awareness Office at Montana State University. The first full-time staff person in her current position, she has spent the last seven years working to build support for Native American students at UC Berkeley and to bring Native issues to the center of campus priorities. Currently, she serves on the Berkeley NAGPRA committee, the Berkeley Native American Advisory Council, the UC President’s Native American Advisory Council and co-chairs the Undergraduate Outreach and Retention Working group for PNAAC.
Above and beyond Phenocia’s phenomenal dedication to and support for students, she has influenced many other positive changes in the UC system. Although the University has long said they would like to adopt a university-wide land acknowledgement, the progress has been slow. Phenocia worked directly with the Muwekma Ohlone tribe and other descendants on whose territory UC Berkeley sits. She dedicated years to developing a living NASD land acknowledgement statement, which centers on the partnership between the tribe and NASD. The Chancellor and over 15 other offices on campus now use this land acknowledgement. In 2017, Phenocia co-organized UC Berkeley’s historic first Tribal Forum, hosting 120+ tribal members and representatives of 30+ tribes for a two-day, facilitated conversation for California Indian tribes to discuss building trust with Berkeley and future partnerships. The forum resulted in a path forward for Berkeley to finally address its long overdue responsibilities under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Building on the tribal forum, Phenocia has served as a member of the UC Berkeley NAGPRA Committee. This past year, the committee saw their advocacy result in the successful hire of a full-time NAGPRA Liaison.
Boun Khamnouane was born in Phongsali, Laos. His family fled communist persecution and migrated to the United States in 1986. In 2002, he received his Bachelor of Arts in South Southeast Asian Studies from the University California, Berkeley. While at Berkeley, he was a co-president of LASR (Laotian American Student Representatives) and founding member of the Southeast Asian Student Coalition (SASC), the first such organization at the University of California and likely the first in the US. In addition to supporting college students, Boun and the other SASC leaders started a summer institute for Southeast Asian American high school students that continues to thrive two decades later. Boun is still actively involved with SASC, particularly with supporting and mentoring current SASC members as well as fundraising for SASC.
Since he was in college, Boun has worked for the East Bay Consortium/Cal-SOAP, helping to increase the number of students finishing high school and enrolling in postsecondary institutions; he is now the Associate Director. He is very passionate about educating rural and urban youth about life options. In his spare time, he tends to his aquariums (saltwater and freshwater) and volunteers to coach his son’s basketball team. But most importantly, he loves spending time with his lovely wife, daughter and son.
Bernadette (Bernie) Lim is the daughter of Filipinx-Toisan immigrants. She is a 3rd year medical student at UCSF School of Medicine and recent Masters graduate through the Joint Medical Program, a dual degree program with the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Bernie seeks to re-imagine and work towards a medical and public health praxis that centers community narratives, voices, and experiences. She is the founder of the Freedom School for Intersectional Medicine and Health Justice, an interdisciplinary learning community that has involved 300+ students, faculty, and community members in the Bay Area and across the United States through its bi-weekly gatherings, community site visits, and national fellowship program. In addition, Bernadette created and co-hosts the Woke WOC Docs podcast to amplify the lives of womxn of color in medicine and health justice. In little over a year since its inception, the podcast has garnered 15k+ plays and 600+ subscribers in all 50 states and in 50+ countries across the globe. Most recently, Bernadette founded the Freedom Community Clinic which has served 300+ underserved people of color in the East Bay through its holistic healing clinics and non-profit community wellness programs. Each program seeks to provide whole-person healing directly to communities in need through local non-profit partnerships and pop-up clinics held in spaces where communities already gather and celebrate. Each program combines the strengths of ancestral, indigenous, and holistic healing practices with the strengths of Western medicine for communities at sliding scale rates or free of charge. Bernie graduated from Harvard University in 2016 with cum laude honors and was a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar to India.
Will is a Black and Korean farmer and food activist in occupied Ohlone tribal territory in the East Bay. As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, Will's studies focused on agroecology and indigenous foodways. He graduated in December 2018 with a degree in Conservation Resource Studies in the College of Natural Resources. Within a predominantly white college, Will, with the help of others, fought for students of color to have safe spaces, specifically green spaces, where students can steward the land and reconnect with ancestral practices surrounding food and medicine. This included implementing guerilla gardens in vacant campus spaces, protecting those spaces, and engaging with other students to form a relationship with the land they are on. Will is a Farm Educator at the UC Gill Tract Community Farm and a co-founder of the Black Earth Farms collective, which grows and distributes thousands of pounds of food on a sliding scale.
Joel Sati is an immigrant rights activist and scholar. Currently, he is a Ph.D. candidate (Jurisprudence and Social Policy) at the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. candidate at Yale University. Although Sati immigrated to the U.S. from Kenya as a child, he learned of his undocumented status when he applied for college. Unable to receive the necessary financial aid to attend a four-year institution, he enrolled in community college and began working with immigrant advocacy organizations on needed reforms. Joel organized protest campaigns in Washington D.C. along with extensive canvassing efforts in Maryland’s Montgomery County, playing an integral role in helping secure passage of Maryland’s DREAM Act in 2012 as well as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Upon completing his Associate’s Degree, Joel secured a Skadden Fellowship for legal studies at the City College of New York, from which he graduated summa cum laude. During that time he was a youth organizer for African Communities Together, expanding the base of immigrant activists to include African youth. He also founded Undocumental, a website designed as a forum for the organization and publication of undocumented voices. In 2018 he was awarded a PD Soros Fellowship, funding his continued graduate education. Sati’s scholarship focuses on questions of epistemology and how the social organization of knowledge channels how we perceive and respond to the testimony of socially marginalized groups. Sati’s concept of “illegalization” draws attention to the fact that, neither “illegal” (in the conventional sense of being criminals) nor undocumented (often they possess reams of documents), immigrants are “illegalized” by policy choices that are within the state’s power to alter or undo. Sati’s work shows that the “illegalization” experienced by undocumented and other marginalized communities is ongoing, and combatting illegalization requires an intersectional and interdisciplinary response.
Rosa M. Jiménez is Assistant Professor of Education at the University of San Francisco. Raised in California’s Central Valley and the daughter of Mexican working class immigrants, she completing her B.A. from UC Davis. After working for four years as a social studies/bilingual teacher in Los Angeles, she pursued and completed an M.A. in Latin American Studies and a Ph.D. in Education, both from UCLA. Based in the Central Valley and Bay Area, Rosa’s impactful community-engaged research and activist work addresses and resists deficit perspectives of Latinx immigrant communities. It asks, how can education support immigrant students to better understand their history and current political climate, take pride in their language/culture, and use education towards social change? Rosa partners with local schools and classroom Teachers of Color to design projects that support their work in teaching immigrant youth language/literacies, culturally relevant curricula, and political consciousness. At one Central Valley school, she co-designed and co-implemented curriculum about family histories of migration and documented how youth developed academic and critical literacies. Students collected their families’ migration stories, wrote them, and then analyzed them for the strengths that their families exhibited throughout their journey. Identifying these strengths plays an important role in helping youth to identify their own strengths and counter the dominant racist and anti-immigrant narratives so prevalent in news cycles. When youth are able to view their lived experiences as transnational migrants through critical perspectives, it generates spaces of healing, possibility and transformation. Her work also challenges and transforms the dominant pedagogy and practices of teachers and administrators who work with these youth, helping them to better understand students’ and families’ “experiential migration capital,” which she defines as “the knowledges, sensibilities, and skills cultivated through the array of migration experiences to the U.S. or its borderlands.”
Lauren Heidbrink (Left, with her nominator, Dr. Samantha Gottlieb) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development at California State University Long Beach. Trained as an anthropologist, Lauren’s work challenges legal and political ambiguities and provides advocacy for unaccompanied migrant children. Moving between academic, political and social worlds, Lauren has engaged in sustained ethnographic engagement with immigrant communities. Her research with young migrants in U.S. immigration detention and following deportation to Central America challenges xenophobic stereotypes of youth as vulnerable victims, delinquents, or gang members, revealing contextualized understandings of how and why young people are on the move. In addition to sharing this research with policymakers at the U.S. Department of State and USAID, she uses multi-media methods – blogs, podcasts, photo journals, digital stories – that youth collaboratively develop to ensure that youth reach wider and more diverse publics with their ideas, experiences, and expertise. Her collaborative website, Youth Circulations, which draws over 9,000 unique visitors annually, is dedicated to bringing research about and by youth to global public and academic audiences. She recently curated an interdisciplinary, multi-lingual series on a community-based study in Almolonga, creating a platform for U.S. and Guatemalan scholars to share findings and analysis. The series blossomed into an interactive art exhibit currently circulating across the U.S., Mexico and Guatemala.
Elizabeth Clark-Rubio is an immigrant rights activist and ethnographic researcher. Currently a PhD student in Anthropology at the University of California at Irvine, she has organized teach-ins, direct actions, and ally trainings for faculty and staff in support of undocumented students. Her organizing has brought attention to the large number of AAPI undocumented students at UCI and helped to build collective power between on- and off-campus communities. She has also secured more resources for undocumented students at UCI; opened up spaces on campus for dialogue, education and strategizing around issues affecting undocumented students and immigrant communities; and participated in vigils and rallies in D.C. calling for a “clean” Dream Act. Her scholarship is directed at gathering, amplifying and organizing undocumented student stories into a platform for social justice and moving academics to engage in overt political action for collective struggle. Prior to graduate studies, Liz organized with undocumented Latinx immigrants affiliated with CASA de Maryland, a community immigrant rights organization in the Washington D.C. area. In 2013 she founded Yo Decido, an organization that combines legal, psychosocial and popular education services into a holistic care model for undocumented Latina women who are also survivors of domestic violence.
Nicola McClung is Assistant Professor of Learning and Instruction at the University of San Francisco (USF). Arturo Cortéz is Adjunct Professor of Teacher Education at USF and a doctoral candidate in Educational Policy at UC Berkeley. Together they founded Xóchitl Justice Press (XJP), a nonprofit organization that promotes a just and equitable society through publishing, community partnerships, education, and research. In 2014 Nicola and Arturo launched the XJP Book Project to partner with non-dominant youth to conceptualize, write and produce nonfiction books for beginning readers that are educational and representative of students’ lives. With the help of USF pre-service teachers, over 50 books, featuring photographs of people and places from the youth’s communities, have been published and shared with emergent readers in San Francisco’s Western Addition and beyond, and many more are in production. The Book Project provides a venue for non-dominant youth to amplify their stories, as well as develop necessary literacy skills, while at the same time providing relevant and relatable books for young children and helping novice teachers learn how to leverage children’s cultural assets towards social transformation.
Camila Cribb Fabersunne is a resident in UCSF’s Pediatric Leadership for the Underserved (PLUS) Program. Her work seeks to combat the school-to-prison pipeline by applying a public health lens. Dedicated to dismantling mechanisms of structural racism affecting children and families, Camila regularly convenes diverse stakeholders – from the school district, community organizations, social justice organizations, county Department of Public Health, and academics – to focus on the physical and mental health predictors of school suspension. School discipline policies have been connected with increased risk of defiant behaviors, poor school achievement, and likely increased rates of incarceration especially among students of color. By supplying the data and bringing together partners who historically have not worked together on this issue, Camila is leading a paradigm shift toward considering educational discipline and educational outcomes as public health issues.
Aileen Suzara is a land- and kitchen-based educator with roots in the environmental justice and community health movements. An alumna of UC Berkeley's Masters in Public Health Nutrition, she is passionate about helping young people grow as ecologically-minded, culturally-literate leaders in the Good Food Movement. In 2014-15 Aileen was a graduate student researcher at the Berkeley Food Institute and took a leadership role in their community engagement program, which aims to build bridges between UC Berkeley and the broader food and agriculture community. Outside the university, Aileen’s social change efforts of the last decade focused on building health among Bay Area communities of color. As a public health nutritionist, she delves into health inequities faced by Filipino Americans, including diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Collaborating with Filipino Advocates for Justice (FAJ), Aileen supported the launch of Bahay Kubo, a garden in Union City that builds upon FAJ's youth leadership model with hands-on experiences in growing and sharing healthy Filipino food. In 2015, the project placed first in the Big Ideas competition at UCB. She is an advisory member to the Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity and an eco-culinary educator with Sama Sama Cooperative, which works to "reclaim language, culture, and land-based traditions." Another recent endeavor was launching a youth-run kitchen site for the Ceres Community Project. She is hard at work on Sariwa (Fresh), a sustainable Filipino foods business that connects traditionally-inspired diets and entrepreneurship as a tool for change. Developed as a pop-up restaurant at Berkeley's Eat.Think.Design health innovations course, Sariwa is now a proud participant in the La Cocina women's food incubator.
The 2016 award was covered by Berkeley News in this article. At the award ceremony, the keynote speaker was Lauret Savoy, one of Aileen's professors at Mt. Holyoke College. The Mt. Holyoke Alumnae Association published an article about Aileen and Lauret. A video-recording of the event is available on YouTube.
Pictured from left to right: Rosalie Z. Fanshel, program manager with the Berkeley Food Institute, who nominated Suzara for the award; Mari Rose Taruc, chair of the board of directors of the Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity; Aileen Suzara; and keynote speaker Lauret Savoy.
Sepehr Vakil is a scholar and activist committed to educational equity issues in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education. Sepehr is currently a PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley. His research investigates the sociopolitical and cultural dimensions of STEM education, posing critical questions about the broader purposes and goals of STEM education reforms, while also designing and studying alternative educational STEM spaces. In collaboration with an Oakland-based teacher, he co-founded and was the previous director of Oakland Science and Mathematics Outreach (OSMO), a STEM-focused after school program based out of the Boys and Girls Club of Oakland. As a part of his ongoing commitment to the classroom, Sepehr has collaborated closely with teachers and community educators to design learning environments that foster students’ digital as well as sociopolitical literacies. He has taught Calculus, Computer Science, and Integrated Science at the Level the Playing Field Institute’s SMASH and SMASH:Prep Programs, along with an elective technology design and social change course at REALM Charter High School. This past fall, Sepehr worked with students and teachers at Oakland Technical High School to create formalized spaces within the school where students can engage in critical dialogue and problem solving around racialized inequities within their school. Born in Iran, Sepehr is also concerned with issues of identity, race, and solidarity while working with communities of color in the United States. He strives to bring back to the academy what he’s learned from youth, their families, and the other learning environments and educators that they encounter.
Sandra Brown is a scholar and activist for farmworker rights and food justice. She is Assistant Professor and Faculty Director of the Master of Public Affairs Program at the University of San Francisco; she teaches classes on food policy, non-profits, and social change, among other topics, and conducts research on fair trade, environmental toxins, and farmworker rights. She received her PhD in Geography from UC Berkeley in 2012, writing her dissertation on fair trade in the banana industry in Ecuador. Sandra’s academic focus stems from her deep and sustained commitment to social justice. In the 1990’s, she helped organize farmworkers in the Monterey area and coordinated community support for the United Farm Workers strawberry campaign. Since then, she has been a dedicated advocate for workers in California and South America, including campaigning for living wages in the Bay Area and working with farmworker cooperatives and unions in Ecuador and Colombia to coordinate public actions, write funding grants for community development projects, and draw public attention to appalling labor conditions. She regularly speaks to community and professional organizations to share her work and advocate for better working conditions, and she serves on the boards of the Cal Ag Roots Project, the California Food and Justice Coalition, the California Institute for Rural Studies, and the Agricultural Justice Project.
Sarah Ramirez, PhD, MPH, MA, is a health educator for the city of Pixley, California, a lecturer in the Food Nutrition and Science Department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and a principal investigator at the Public Health institute in Oakland. She is also the co-founder of BeHealthyTulare, a grass-roots collective in Tulare County that incorporates popular education and participatory strategies to create an environment that makes equitable health possible for everyone. The daughter of Mexican farm workers, Sarah and her siblings witnessed her parents, other family members, and friends work long hours in the fields and suffer from chronic illnesses which often resulted in premature death and chronic suffering. Sarah herself spent time experiencing fieldwork. While working on her PhD and just after completing her MPH in epidemiology Sarah returned to Pixley to apply her knowledge of health of her community as the county epidemiologist and began to find the evidence for the disturbing geographic and race/ethnic disparities. Working as a health educator, academic researcher, and community health advocate, Sarah has a passion for creating healthy communities and educating others about the patterns and predicaments of health disparities particularly as they are experienced in rural areas, among immigrant and migrant populations. At night Sarah prepares her courses, analyzes public health data, and devises workshop presentations about health disparities. During the day, she spends part of her week as a lecturer teaching undergraduates about the realities of working on nutrition related topics within the community. She has worked as an epidemiologist and a health educator providing Spanish-language health classes and holding workshops/support groups on topics related to chronic disease prevention, Through BeHealthyTulare she continues these activities along with working in their local community garden and teaching hands-on culinary education, and leading group fitness classes. BeHealthyTulare also recruits volunteers to harvest thousands of pounds (YTD 24,178lbs) of unwanted fruits and vegetables per year from farms and backyards, which are then donated to local food pantries that serve low income populations in Tulare County. BeHealthyTulare also offers local Latino youth a space to practice their leadership and compassion while giving back and becoming role models within their communities. Sarah believes that encouraging and supporting their dreams for change is one way to grow the people, hearts, and hope in her community.
2014 Yamashita Prize Winner Sarah Ramirez (second from right) and 2014 Honorable Mention Mimi Kim (second from left), with their nominators, Veena Dubal (left) and Cristina Mora (right). Watch a video of the 2014 Yamashita Prize Award Ceremony here.
Mimi Kim, MSW, is a PhD candidate in UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare and a Graduate Fellow at ISSI. She is also Founder and Executive Director of Creative Interventions, a non-profit resource center that develops, pilots, documents and publicly disseminates innovative social network and community-based interventions to domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of interpersonal violence. For two decades, Mimi pioneered progressive community interventions to domestic violence, founding or co-founding and directing three groundbreaking organizations – KAN-WIN (Korean American Women in Need), TORCH (Training and Organizing Resources for Community Health), and Creative Interventions – that promote community-based responses to violence against women, prioritizing underserved immigrant and LGBTQ communities. Mimi’s organizing and advocacy has inspired her work as an applied academic. Her research examines the women’s movement’s turn toward the criminal justice system as a solution to the problem of domestic violence and alternatives to criminalization as a response to domestic violence. Through her scholarship, community organizing and advocacy work, Mimi has helped to develop toolkits, story telling and other resources aimed at intervening in interpersonal violence, reducing violence, and “making ending violence an everyday act.”
Roxanna Altholz is Assistant Clinical Professor of Law and Associate Director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic (IHRLC) at UC Berkeley’s School of Law. Roxanna collaborates with national human rights organizations to hold governments accountable for mass atrocities and to seek legal justice for victims of human rights abuses. Her work also provides training opportunities to law students in how to become socially-engaged practitioners and builds lasting bridges between communities and the academy to promote social change. Roxanna is a graduate of the Boalt Hall School of Law. Upon graduation she volunteered with the UN Mission in Kosovo and served as a legal officer in the immediate aftermath of the conflict with Serbia where she confronted the challenges of building rule of law in an ethnically-divided region emerging from conflict and decades of repression. The following year she joined the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the leading human rights organization litigating cases before the regional human rights system in the Americas, where she was involved in litigating more than 40 cases of human rights violations committed in Colombia, Ecuador, the Caribbean, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States. Her most recent success came in December 2012, when the Inter-American Court issued a verdict against the state of Guatemala for the disappearance of 28 individuals during that country’s civil war in the early 1980s. Along with the Myrna Mack Foundation, and with the assistance of more than two-dozen Berkeley Law students, Roxanna represented a group of 127 family members of the disappeared. The Court ruled that upper echelons of the Guatemalan military conspired with politicians and police to target and eliminate the “disappeared” victims due to their perceived political and social views. It ordered Guatemala to investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for the crimes, recover the victims’ remains, construct a national park dedicated to the memory of the victims, and pay more than $8 million in damages to the victims’ families. In addition to bringing legal justice to families of the disappeared, this ruling represents the success of Roxanna’s broader social change work directed at promoting transparency and access to information, and holding governments accountable for state-sponsored violence.
Margaret Rhee is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Ethnic Studies (with a designated emphasis in New Media Studies) at the University of California, Berkeley. She co-leads (with Isela González) From the Center (FTC), a collaboration of health educators, academics, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women who work in partnership to re-imagine education, research, and advocacy through the power of digital storytelling. After serving as project manager of the community-based participatory action research project “Jailed Women and HIV Education,” Margaret conceived of and developed a curriculum for FTC’s HIV/AIDS prevention education digital storytelling project, which provides incarcerated women with a creative venue through which to share their expertise and knowledge with academic and countless other communities. In the fall of 2010, Margaret co-led workshops in creative writing, HIV education, and digital storytelling. These workshops were held in the San Francisco county jail and provided incarcerated women with the opportunity to learn about HIV/AIDS and to use low-cost production technologies to create their own digital stories highlighting how their lives have been impacted by HIV/AIDS. Upon completion of the digital stories, the FTC participants asked that their stories be shared in academic settings, community settings and with anyone serving incarcerated and formerly incarcerated populations. Screenings of the FTC digital stories have been held in San Francisco jails for incarcerated women, Sheriff’s Department staff, Jail Health Services staff and other jail service providers. The Forensic AIDS Project (the first HIV service provider in a California jail/prison) continues to build on the FTC’s work by using the stories as educational tools with incarcerated populations, HIV prevention educators and academic partners. These stories are also accessible world-wide on the FTC website (ourstorysf.org). After viewing the stories there is a significant increase in HIV tests requested by prisoners. Incarcerated women who view these stories have expressed that FTC’s work has changed how they view educational institutions; they see the value in sharing their knowledge and expertise with academics.
Hector Perla Jr. is Assistant Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He has become a leading scholar in his field, while also playing a pivotal role in democracy movements in Central America and in the Central American community in the United States. Hector received his PhD in Political Science from UCLA in 2005. His forthcoming book, Revolutionary Deterrence, examines the strategies and tactics used by the Nicaraguan Sandinistas to resist the Reagan Administration’s efforts to overthrow them. Hector has leveraged his academic expertise to foment democracy and justice in Latin America through his speaking engagements, political lobbying, as an elections observer, and by co-authoring reports for policy makers based on his visits to Central America. He has collaborated with human rights groups and Salvadoran American organizations to persuade Congress and the Obama Administration to take a neutral stance on the Salvadoran elections and to respect their democratic outcome. Following the 2009 coup in Honduras, he helped to lead an academic and community effort to encourage the Obama Administration to denounce the coup and lobby for the return to constitutional democracy by reinstating the elected president Manuel Zelaya. In January 2009 he served as a member of the Salvadoran American National Association’s delegation to visit Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), who, at the time, chaired the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and who represents an LA district with a significant Salvadoran American population. As a result of this effort, Congressman Berman issued a strong statement in the crucial days before the election, thus reassuring Salvadoran citizens to vote without fear of reprisal from the U.S. government for voting for their preferred candidate. Here in the U.S., Hector has been active empowering the Salvadoran diaspora. Drawing on his own experiences as a Salvadoran youth in San Francisco, Hector has mentored high school and college students. He has engaged in extensive community outreach to the Salvadorian and Nicaraguan communities, serving as a bridge between the Central American Solidarity movement and academia.
Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg is Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco where she teaches courses on the Politics of International Aid and Development, African Politics, and the Politics of Racial and Ethnic Identity. She is also the founder and executive director of Akili Dada, a non-profit organization dedicated to women’s empowerment by providing leadership training, mentorship and scholarships for poor Kenyan girls, and she serves on the Board of Directors of the One World Children’s Fund. Wanjiru left Kenya at the age of 14 to join her uncle in Denver, Colorado. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Politics from Whitman College and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota. Her personal experience on both continents gave her insights into the challenges that poor women face in the quest for education, which have shaped both her academic scholarship and her social activism. Founded in 2005, Akili Dada identifies high-potential adolescent girls and gives them comprehensive scholarships to top secondary schools. Students are linked with local professional women who serve as mentors. Students also participate in a rigorous leadership training program grounded in community-based service projects and tailored to developing the skills needed to break into areas where Kenyan women are underrepresented. Alumnae of Akili Dada continue to engage with, and benefit from, Akili Dada by joining the leadership of the organization or by giving back to the organization either as interns or mentors to current students. Together they are building a powerful global women’s network of scholars, mentors, and volunteers involved in diverse decision-making capacities beyond the household level. Wanjiru has used her expert knowledge of development, philanthropy, gender politics in Africa and the barriers to education faced by young women to build the capacity of Akili Dada as an organization and contributor to social change. At the same time, she incorporates the lessons learned from Akili Dada into her teaching and scholarship, and she mentors USF students who undertake internships with the organization. Over the next decade, Wanjiru hopes to replicate the Akili Dada model and expand it to other African countries, with a goal of supporting 100 new scholars per year. Click here to hear an audio recording of Wanjiru's remarks.
Genevieve Negron-Gonzales is a Ph.D. candidate in the Social and Cultural Studies Program of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education. A second-generation Chicana who grew up in California just miles from the US-Mexico border, Genevieve began her activist career at the age of 15, organizing members of her community for immigrant rights. A first-generation college student, Genevieve has been involved in numerous organizations that advocate for politically and economically marginalized communities both on and off campus. Genevieve spent two years as co-Director of the School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL), an Oakland-based non-profit organization that does political education work with low-income youth of color through classes, workshops and summer programs. Since then, she has provided leadership training to and built bridges between immigrant communities around issues of affordable housing, immigrant rights, and funding for social services. While a doctoral student, Genevieve has provided mentoring and advising to low-income undergraduate students of color as the student services coordinator for the Initiative for Diversity in Education and Leadership (IDEAL). Genevieve's scholarship is informed by her activism. It combines grounded theory and participatory action research to understand how successful social justice movements are formed and maintained. Her dissertation, an ethnographic study of undocumented student involvement in the movement to pass the DREAM Act, seeks to understand the mechanisms that build movement consciousness. She investigates why these most vulnerable students are willing to put themselves and their ability to remain in the U.S. at risk in an effort to publicly fight for access to higher education for undocumented students, and how they develop an oppositional consciousness that allows for collective action in the demand for transformative justice. For Genevieve, the purpose of answering these questions is both theoretical and practical. She incorporates her findings into her own activism and the trainings that she develops for activists.
Catalina Garzón is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. Catalina has dedicated herself to building bridges between the university and communities facing environmental and economic injustices. In her academic work, Catalina develops community-led social action research models that emphasize equity and power-sharing between grassroots groups and researchers. As a UC Berkeley undergrad, Catalina was co-chair of Nindakin: People of Color for Environmental Justice, a statewide advocacy group for communities facing environmental injustices. In 1999 Catalina also worked with PODER, an environmental justice group based in San Francisco's Mission District, to develop a student solidarity campaign at UC Berkeley for Fuerza Unida, a group of former Levi's garment workers in Texas organizing for workers rights and corporate accountability. After graduation, Catalina was selected as a fellow in the Bay Area Communities Initiative and placed at the Land Restoration and Community Revitalization Project at the Urban Habitat Program, where she engaged in policy advocacy efforts to advance community-driven brownfields redevelopment. In 2001 Catalina returned to UC Berkeley to pursue a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning, focusing her master’s thesis on providing a community-friendly guide to the brownfields redevelopment process in West Oakland. Selected to be a fellow in the Sustainable Communities Leadership Program, Catalina worked with an Oakland-based nonprofit research institute (Pacific Institute) to develop and implement a series of trainings on refinery flaring and open space preservation with community leaders and activists in Richmond and North Richmond. In 2003 Catalina began her doctoral studies. Two years later she traveled to the nation of Colombia as a Human Rights Center Fellow to provide research support to the U'Wa Defense Project, an indigenous rights organization working to protect U'Wa land and communities from oil extraction. Currently, Catalina is writing a dissertation on participatory research collaborations between researchers and community groups in the environmental justice movement in the Bay Area. She continues to work part-time at the Pacific Institute, developing and facilitating popular education trainings and community-based planning projects with environmental justice groups in the Bay Area and beyond.
Maria Cristina Cielo is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at UC Berkeley. Cristina’s work seeks to better understand and contribute to improved analyses of urban inequalities, their intractability, and their possible amelioration, and to improve the social, political, and economic quality of life of disadvantaged urban residents throughout the world. After graduating from college, Cristina moved to the Philippines to report for the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, writing about social issues (such as the elderly, poor, gender disparities in education, and youth gangs) in nationally syndicated articles (e.g., The Manila Times). While in the Philippines, Cristina taught writing, literature and research classes at the University of the Philippines. She also participated in opening the University's Davao City campus, where she helped to found the Philippines Cultural Center. Upon returning to the U.S., Cristina served as Community Programs Educator at Miami Art Museum for two years, where she helped plan and direct programs to broaden the Museum's audience to include disadvantaged youth and their families. In 2000 Cristina moved to Mexico to work with the Veracruz State Council of Civil Organizations to improve the capacity of member organizations, including Sembradores Social and Community Development Program, a grassroots organization devoted to improving the quality of life of residents in this impoverished urban area. After beginning doctoral studies in Sociology at UC Berkeley, Cristina moved to Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2007 to conduct her dissertation field research and develop projects aimed at improving the welfare of residents of Bolivia's poorer communities. Working with a local NGO (Centro Vicente Cañas) and its Programa Poder Local (Program for Local Power), whose objective is to support the autonomous development of urban popular organizations by promoting and empowering residents' participation in affecting the policies that shape their living conditions, Cristina assisted with developing and implementing team research projects on political participation, international migration and community development. She continues to undertake participatory action research aimed at improving public policies in developing nations.
Loan Dao is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1975, Loan and her family came to the U.S. as refugees from the American war in Vietnam. From an early age she was involved in creating social networks and locally-based organizations that provided sites of healing and support for Southeast Asian (SEA) communities. During college, Loan volunteered as the prisoner’s liaison for the ACLU in Central Texas, documenting prison conditions, answering letters from inmates and bringing potential cases to lawyers’ attention. After college, Loan worked as the Director of Huong Viet Community Center in Oakland, where she recruited local college students to mentor high school youth and assist in the development of research and programs. Now in graduate school, Loan’s dissertation research looks at social movements among Southeast Asian youth challenging the detention and deportation of SEAs in the U.S. Between 2002-06 she used her academic expertise to help connect college, community, legal and policy organizations to form a multi-pronged response to the detention and deportation crisis affecting Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese refugee communities. She helped form the Southeast Asian Freedom Network, which was the first national network of organizations to specifically address post-9/11 detentions and deportation practices in the U.S., and she has assisted numerous SEA families facing deportation in her role as researcher, expert witness and legal advocate. In addition to her advocacy and scholarship on detention and deportation issues, Loan has been active in providing disaster relief to the large Vietnamese population affected by hurricane Katrina. She co-founded “VietBAK” (Vietnamese Bay Area Katrina relief group) and she has made frequent trips to the Gulf Coast to help with rebuilding and relief efforts, provide translation, and advocate for more resources for Vietnamese communities along the Gulf Coast. She recently completed co-producing a full-length documentary titled “A Village Called Versailles.” Versailles, a community in eastern New Orleans, was first settled by Vietnamese refugees and later ravaged by hurricane Katrina. The film recounts the empowering story of how people who have already suffered so much in their lifetime, turn a devastating disaster into a catalyst for change and a chance for a better future.
Lynn Wu graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania. She went on to teach at Elmhurst Middle School in the Oakland Unified School District, incorporating social justice and youth empowerment throughout her teaching instruction. While teaching, Lynn earned her M.A.T. from the Center for Teaching Excellence and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco. There, she researched the correlation between youth involvement in school policy making and academic success. Currently, Lynn is a joint law and public policy student at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the founder of IMPACT: A multidisciplinary journal addressing the issues of urban youth. She continues to work with the Oakland Unified School District mentoring her former students, coaching new teachers, and conducting legal research and policy analysis to explore innovative district reform initiatives. She was the Co-Director of Advocates for Youth Justice at Berkeley Law and formerly co-ran the Educational Advocacy Clinic, where she trained graduate students who were then appointed to advocate for the education rights of foster youth by the Alameda County juvenile court. She has taught at Juvenile Hall and has been an educational surrogate for foster children. Her main research and career interests lie in achieving education reform through multidisciplinary collaboration with a particular focus on meeting the educational needs of foster youth.
Melissa Ho is a Ph.D. student in UC Berkeley’s School of Information. She develops innovative information technologies that can be used to help the world’s poor and to improve the delivery of health care in developing regions of the world. In 2004, she worked at Intel Research Berkeley helping to develop a delay-tolerant technology vital for getting internet connectivity to villagers in rural India. While in India, she helped set up remote eye care clinics for Aravind Eye Hospital. She then traveled to Mexico while working on a class project to set up low-cost Linux-based computers for schoolchildren. In 2005, she worked on building high-bandwidth connections between the universities in Ghana in order to foster dialog, the sharing of information, and improved education in those communities. In 2006, she began to focus on improving healthcare delivery to Sub-Saharan Africa and began working on the Ghana Consultation Network, which links 80 doctors in 4 hospitals with their diasporic counterparts and helps to build the capacity and quality of doctors trained in Africa. Melissa’s research focuses on identifying the real needs of the world’s poorest and the ways innovative network technologies can be used to significantly address these needs, in addition to understanding the combination of institutional, political, and cultural factors necessary to create truly sustainable solutions.
Yvette Mari Robles is Director of the Bayview Hunters Point Mobilization for Adolescent Growth in our Communities (BMAGIC), a youth violence prevention collaborative comprised of 50 community-based organizations and stakeholders in the Bayview/Hunters Point communities of San Francisco. BMAGIC seeks to support the communities most highly impacted by crime by creating and maintaining a unified roadmap to social change that advances the educational, economic, and juvenile justice of underserved youth and their families. As Director of BMAGIC, Yvette has helped to build the capacity of community-based organizations, for example, by providing a series of trainings on fundraising, financial and personnel management, outreach and organizing, and strategic planning, and by leading the effort to design, fund, recruit and staff a new Computer Technology Center at the local YMCA. She also launched a ground breaking new program, “Direct Connect,” inside the Youth Guidance Center, with detained boys and young men from the Bayview/Hunters Point communities.
Lina Hu comes from the industrial city of Wuhan, situated in the heart of China. In Baigou, three hours from Beijing, Lina established a night school where she and fellow students taught English, computer skills and labor law to young migrant workers from rural China. She invited migrant workers to Tsinghua University and organized conversations between workers and students to encourage better understanding among students of what it means to be a migrant and to publicly affirm the contributions of migrant workers to the university community. She also collaborated with a labor organization in Beijing, “Facilitator,” to host a photo exhibition of migrant worker struggles at Tsinghua University. Lina is currently a graduate student in Sociology at UC Berkeley, where she continues to practice and write about sociological interventions.
Alvaro Huerta has spent the past twenty years working to improve the lives of low-income Chicano/Latino communities throughout the greater Los Angeles area. As a student activist at UCLA in the mid 1980s, he was involved in recruiting low-income Latinos into higher education. After learning of the university's plan to cut financial aid to undocumented immigrants, he and other students waged a weeklong hunger strike that resulted in a reversal of the university's policy. Since graduating from UCLA, Alvaro has been engaged in community organizing among disenfranchised Latino communities around issues involving immigrant rights and environmental justice. In 1996 he co-founded the Association of Latin American Gardeners of Los Angeles (ALAGLA), the first organization of Latino gardeners in the U.S. As lead organizer for Communities for a Better Environment from 1999-2001, he successfully waged an environmental justice campaign to defeat plans to build a 550-megawatt power plant in South East Los Angeles. Currently, Alvaro works pro bono as the Executive Director of the Statue of Liberty Center, a statewide nonprofit organization aimed at improving wages and working conditions for Latino gardeners by providing leadership development to ALAGLA's members. Alvaro is a Ph.D. student in the Department of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on the organizational efforts made by community organizers and individuals seeking to overcome social injustices in the United States.
Darren Noy has endeavored to advance the struggle to achieve social justice for homeless people by combining research and activism. Before beginning doctoral studies in Sociology at UC Berkeley, Darren was an organizer for "Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency," which is now a member of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), a coalition of West Coast social justice-based homelessness organizations, with whom he currently works. Prior to joining WRAP, Darren also worked with the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness (COH). It was during this time that he began to integrate his scholarly work and his activism by providing analysis and project reports that advance the organizations' work, especially in the policy arena, and by helping COH and WRAP develop and expand their own political analyses and voice. At the same time, he brought the lived experiences and theoretical perspectives of these organizations into his own academic writings. Currently, Darren is in Thailand conducting dissertation research. His dissertation examines visions of economic development held by community-based organizations and social movements in the Global South.