Our Fellows

Class of 2016

Hazim Abdullah-Smith

Hazim Abdullah-Smith is a third year student majoring in African American Studies and minoring in French. He is also working toward a certificate in Civic Engagement. Hazim is a first-generation college student who is seeking to make an impact through political, social and scholarly activism. His research interests include race, class, gender, prison writings, prison abolition, and 20th century black literature. His current research project explores the representations of imprisonment and confinement in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. In the future, Hazim aspires to continue his education with African and African Diaspora Studies.

Cinthya Rodriguez

Cinthya Rodriguez is a first-generation, Chicana student currently pursuing a Latina/o Studies major and double minors in African American Studies and Asian American Studies. From the Southwest Side of Chicago, Cinthya has a strong commitment to community organizing and youth activism. Currently, she is working on making the case for Ethnic Studies in all of Chicago's high schools; focusing on how Chicago Public Schools students understand their subjectivities and think about power and governance through African American and Latina/o Studies curricula. Her research interests include Critical Ethnic Studies, Women of Color Feminists, and Critical Pedagogy.

DeAnna Smith

DeAnna Smith, a junior from Homewood, IL, currently studies Sociology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. DeAnna is interested in the Sociology of Religion and the Sociology of Education. Within these fields, she is interested in using intersectional approaches to study how one's race/ethnicity, class, sexuality, and gender inform religious and educational experiences. This past year, DeAnna interned with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and was a Global Engagement Fellow.

Ariana Steele

Ariana Steele is a Junior in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences majoring in Linguistics and Computer Science, and minoring in French. Since she began learning French in the third grade, she has always wondered how language may reflect the inner workings of the brain. She is also interested in using second language learning as a medium to better understand language and the brain. After graduation, Ariana intends to apply for a research Fulbright and attend graduate school in linguistics.

Alberto Takase

As a junior in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Alberto Takase majors in Mathematics and minors in Chemistry. He currently specializes in Set Theory due to its emphasis on mathematical logic and the axiomatic method. Besides being an active participant at the Northwestern University Math Society, he also enjoys playing chess and learning technology. He hopes to address the under-representation of minorities in the mathematical community by eventually working as a professor and mentoring students also interested in joining the ranks of institutional faculty. Alberto also works at the Northwestern University Information Technology (NUIT) center.

Class of 2015

Sarah Bridgewaters

Sarah Bridgewaters is studying African American Studies and Urban Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Her experiences growing up with dual salient identities, and within public school systems in Illinois spurred her interest in education and specifically educational disparities. Her future research focuses on inequities within the Chicago Public Schools, namely the two-tiered public school system. She plans to study how media representation of the most recent mass of school closings was skewed and controlled by the Mayor's office.

Aozora Brockman

Aozora (Zoe) Brockman started her undergraduate career as a freshman in the Medill School of Journalism, but her profound fascination with racial issues across the world soon drew her to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program. Zoe is a Creative Writing (poetry) major with an Asian American Studies minor. She feels incredibly lucky to have met so many influential, impactful and kind professors at Northwestern who have shaped her ideas and worldview. During the summer after her sophomore year, Zoe conducted ethnographic research on non-Asian K-Pop fans in order to study how positive images of East Asian men changed, or did not change, stereotypes about Asian American masculinity. She was able to put together a panel on media and Asian/ Asian American stereotypes for the 2014 Asian American Studies Conference in San Francisco, and presented her research there in April of 2014. During July and August of 2014, Zoe will be working on gathering ethnographic data on Korean-Japanese bi-ethnics in Japan, in order to research the effects of current tensions between South Korea and Japan on this population's ethnic and cultural identity formation. She aims to produce a publishable research paper based on this research during her senior year, and will also be working on a Creative Writing prose-poetry honors project with poet and Professor Rachel Webster.

Christian Keeve

Christian (Chris) Keeve is majoring in Environmental Science with a focus on plant ecology. Additionally, he has an adjunct major in Urban Studies and a minor in African-American Studies. He plans to use the unique combinations of these subject areas to inform his research project. His interests are in the intersection of urbanism and the environment, as well as how communities of color engage with the environment and how the environment is brought into urban settings. Chris is currently planning to research urban forestry and the greening of urban environments. He hopes to explore vertical gardens and green roofs as well as the sociological effects of varying levels of greenery and nature in various urban environments and neighborhoods. Chris also has interests in black queer studies, pop culture, mycology, and conservation. 

Ellyn Peña

Ellyn Peña is a dual major in African-American Studies and Learning and Organizational Change. He is interested in the dynamics of ethnic minorities within Predominantly White Institutions. He hopes to examine the ways in which student protest and activism have evolved since the 1970’s-1980’s. He hopes to apply his study to examine the institutional culture at Northwestern University in relation to racial climate and student protest.

Zaynab Quadri

Zaynab Quadri is an Anthropology and History double major in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Her research interests are in film and the relationship between popular culture, media, and politics in the U.S. Her project explores notions of race, gender and Cold War politics in the James Bond films.

Program Alumni

Class of 2014


Kristian Ayala


After graduating in 2014 with a degree in English literature, Kristian joined Teach for America in Chicago. He currently lives and teaches on the city's southwest side. He hopes to pursue a Ph.D in modern poetry or philosophy once his commitment to TFA is over.

Soad Mana


Soad’s initial research interests focused on food anthropology with a specific focus on the roles of food in representation, construction, and maintenance of cultural identity. Participating in research this past summer allowed her to take a more domestic perspective on food inequalities. Her project explored how communities of color define food justice and their efforts to improve access in a food desert in Chicago’s South Side. After this experience, she decided to focus on how interactions between Middle Eastern corner store owners and African American customers’ impact intervention programs designed to implement healthier food practices within the same food desert community.

Liz Pinedo


This fall, Liz will be entering graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, pursuing a master of global policy studies. She earned her bachelor’s in anthropology and sociology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University. Her research interests include urban sociology, inequality, race, class -- all of which culminated in the completion of an honor's thesis on working-class students and their enrollment in private, elite universities. Along with her strong interest in research, Liz has a passion in exploring new cultures, having participated in exchange programs to Japan, South Korea, and interning with the Social Entrepreneur Corps in the Dominican Republic and Haiti through the Global Engagement Summit Institute. She has also interned at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs with the U.S. Department of State, and will be joining the Foreign Service upon the completion of her graduate studies.

Claire Dillon


Claire Dillon graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Art History and a minor in Italian. On campus she served on the boards of Northwestern Art Review and the Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights, and was a co-founder of Project ShoutOUT, an organization focused on outreach and support for LGBTQ youth. With support from the Mellon Mays Program, she studied abroad in Bologna, Italy, and Havana, Cuba, to pursue her research interests in the art of the early middle ages and late 20th century. Her final research project, which received the J. Carson Webster Prize for Distinguished Honors Thesis, focused on issues of identity negation and negotiation in reinterpretations of work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Since graduating, Claire has worked as the editorial assistant for the publication Art Journal and as the Director of Education and Outreach for ART WORKS Projects. She plans to complete a doctoral program in Art History to pursue a career as a professor.

Amrit Trewn


Amrit studied Critical Theory, African American Studies, and Statistics. He primarily used Black Studies as a conceptual approach to work on an array of projects including a genealogical study of antiblack, asexual discourses around multiracialism, a discursive investigation of the shared history of violence between race, demography, and emerging data-based surveillance technologies, and the development of a mathematical agent-based model of racial signaling and economic disparities. While studying French philosophy in Paris during his senior year, he began investigating the Eurocentric tendencies of Emmanuel Levinas to theorize the ‘other,’ suffering, and ethics without thinking through the fundamental relations between colonialism, diaspora, and modern political violence. Amrit is currently a Match Corps. tutoring fellow working with 9th grade CPS students in mathematics education. He hopes to study Islamic political philosophy at ENS-Lyon in France before applying for graduate studies.

Serena Walker


Serena is interested in the manifestations of race-based inequality. By studying race in Latin America, Serena wishes to research the development of color stratification and how these historical perceptions exist and manifest in blackness. Working at LIFT, an organization whose goal is to improve upward mobility for the impoverished, Serena has learned about the barriers that many face in moving out of poverty. This position, combined with many other experiences, has focused Serena toward a future in education, social policy and ethnic studies.

Class of 2013

Kevin Echavarria


Kevin Echavarria graduated in 2013 with honors in Comparative Literary Studies and a minor in Creative Writing (Fiction). While a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, he examined the role of popular cultural institutions, including Marvel comic books and Disney films, in dissolving physical, cultural and familial borders in the contemporary Latin American and Latin@ coming-of-age novel. His chosen works of study were Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Alberto Fuguet's Peliculas de mi vida. Since graduation, Kevin has remained in the Chicago area to take advantage of all the city has to offer and plan the next steps in pursuing his literary interests.

Hyungjoo Han


Hyungjoo Han was brought to our attention by Gary Alan Fine, who indicated that she was among the strongest scholars he had seen during his time at Northwestern. She is a double major in Legal Studies and American studies. Her research interests center on higher education admissions policies, specifically within with University of California schools. Her current research centers on the relocation of Japanese American college students during World War II from internment camps to higher education institutions outside of the Pacific Coast. Specifically, Hyungjoo’s research focuses on the influx of Japanese Americans to Chicago during the 1940s, the students' re-entry into higher education, and the implications of relocation on contemporary conceptions of the Asian American identity (specifically in the context of higher education).

Kira Hooks


Kira Hooks was an Art History and Radio, Television, & Film double major in the School of Communications. Her research with the Mellon Mayes Undergraduate Research Program examined Black nationality and Black masculinity in the Watch the Thrown album by Jay-Z and Kanye West.  After graduating with Honors in Research and Leadership, Kira moved back home to Atlanta, Georgia where she now works as a Media Coordinator for Cox Media Group.  She hopes to return to graduate school in 2-3 years to pursue a Masters of Marketing.

Jasmine Jennings


Jasmine Jennings graduated Cum Laude with degrees in Art History and International Studies in June 2013. Her interests lie in the ways in which "difference" is interpreted in visual art and considers how the works of art created by/about people of different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds are received and the implications therein. She was inspired by the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, whose theory encompasses the way human beings understand and address that which is “other” to them or to the norm. After studying in Argentina for 5 months, her senior honors thesis explored the representations of Afro-Argentines and the indigenous Argentine population in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and won the 2013 J Carson Webster Prize for Distinguished Honors Thesis in Art History. Jasmine is currently the curatorial assistant at the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery.

Rafael R Vizcaino


Rafael Vizcaíno graduated with a major in Philosophy with minors in Critical Theory and Latin American History. A Posner Fellow and a Leopold Fellow, Rafael was encouraged to apply to the MMUF program by Geraldo Cadava. As a Mellon Mays Fellow, Rafael studied the work of Karl Marx and Michel Foucault under the mentorship of Charles W. Mills and Penelope Deutscher. Rafael also established the Critical Theory Research Workshop and wrote an honors thesis (supervised by Mark Alznauer) on Jürgen Habermas’s theory of deliberative democracy. After graduating from NU, Rafael applied to PhD programs and began working for the Mellon Mays Fellows Professional Network at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. During the fall of 2014 he will be enrolled in the PhD program in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University, where he will be engaging with decolonial thought and Latin American cultural studies.

Class of 2012

Kellyn Lewis


Kellyn Lewis was an African American Studies and Philosophy major in the Weinberg School of Arts and Sciences with a strong interest in the work of Frantz Fanon. He was highly involved on campus and in community and labor organizing. His research as a Mellon Fellow worked to critique the social contracts of liberal thinkers in the canon of Western liberal philosophy and work through difficult concepts of important political theorists who establish the colonial and racial gestures of the historical work. Since graduating Kellyn has driven his research interests through various intellectual endeavors by both taking a series of philosophy courses in the canon of Continental tradition, while also doing independent work in critical philosophy and political economy with Dr. Charles Mills. He is looking to enroll in graduate school in the fall of 2015 where he hopes to engage in the Islamification of theoretical knowledge.

Irene Romulo


Irene's research has explored a number of issues within the field of Latino/a Studies, including the experience of aging among Mexican migrant populations. She has participated in both the Northwestern SROP program and the U-Chicago MMUF Summer Research program. The working title of her project is; “I Too Have a Story: The Experience of Middle Age for Mexican Migrant Women in Chicago.” Irene is currently working on an Immigrant Rights campaign in Oakland, California as part of the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship. She plans to apply to graduate schools for Anthropology in the future.

Isabella Villa


Isabella's primary research interests include how Afro-Colombian Studies programs are implemented by teachers within the Bogotá public school system. She spent two quarters studying abroad (one in Chile and one in Columbia) and was able to spend an additional two weeks in Bogota during the summer of 2011 with Mellon funding to complete additional field work. She participated in the SROP program in the summer of 2010 and completed an independent internship in San Francisco with a legal clinic in the summer of 2012. Isabella taught English at a primary school in Barcelona for one year before joining Teach for America.

Myrtie Williams


Myrtie Williams entered the Mellon Fellowship as a sophomore working under the mentorship of Professor Michelle Wright in the African American Studies Department. Her current research interests are entrenched in the online black natural hair community. Through the process of her senior thesis project, Our Voices are PowerFro: Black women and the development of diaspora identity in the online natural hair community, Myrtie researched networks of communication among Black women developed through blogs, YouTube channels, discussion board forums, and social media sites exchanging in their experiences and sentiments with "going natural." Myrtie is currently entering her second year as a doctoral student in the Cultural Studies Graduate Group at the University of California Davis.

Jonathan Young

Upon graduating from Northwestern University with a double major in Legal & Communication Studies, Jonathan joined Teach for America to see firsthand the state of education in the Chicago Public Schools. He taught special education mathematics for two years at Harper High School in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood; Harper was featured in a two-week segment on This American Life as being one of the most dangerous schools in the country. After receiving his masters degree in special education and finishing his two-year commitment, Jonathan realized that the lack of technology use to aid with education in the inner city was extremely disappointing. He most recently learned to code at Dev Bootcamp and is looking to join the ed-tech world in order to change the future landscape of education.

Class of 2011


Judith Landeros


Judith Landeros is a first generation college student and the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents. While at Northwestern, she was a Social Policy and Latino/a Studies major with an interest in high school graduation rates among Latinos/as in the U.S. She participated in the University of Chicago Summer program during the summer of 2009 and the Brown University Leadership Academy during the summer of 2010. She then joined the Teach for America Corp in 2011 as a preschool teacher in the south side Roseland neighborhood of Chicago. She attained a Masters of Science in Education with a focus in Early Childhood from Dominican University in 2013 and is currently pursuing coursework to complete her Bilingual Endorsement. Judith is currently a bilingual preschool teacher in the south west side of Chicago. She is a recent recipient of the Chicago Foundation for Education Action Research Leadership Institute Fellowship where she will have the opportunity to conduct research in her classroom focusing on the intersection of oral language development, play, and critical thinking skills derived from reading comprehension.

Veronica Morales


Veronica Morales studied English at Northwestern University. During the summer of 2009, she participated in the University of Chicago Summer program. In 2010, she was accepted into the Leadership Academy PSURE program at Princeton University. While there, Ms. Morales developed her thesis around the impact of Villa's legend on theater troupes in California from 1960-1968. She graduated with a degree in American Studies and Communication Studies from Northwestern University. Ms. Morales is currently a senior consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton. She has supported clients in strategic communication areas such as speech writing, publishing and change communications. In her current engagement, she develops strategic communication products for a government agency that deals directly with active duty service member health care benefits.

Dana Nickson


Dana Nickson received her BA in African American Studies with a minor in Anthropology from Northwestern University in 2011. Dana recently returned from Khayelitsha, South Africa where she was serving as a Princeton in Africa Fellow with Equal Education, a community-based education advocacy organization. Starting Fall 2014, Dana will be a Centennial Scholar at The University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education where she will pursue a Master's of Education in Education, Culture and Society. Dana ultimately plans to obtain her PhD in order to conduct qualitative and community-based research in urban educational settings.

Marcus Shepard


Marcus has worked as a documentarian and his first documentary “Divorcing the History,” investigated the current state of the Black community at Northwestern. He is currently a third year doctoral student at USC's Annenberg School of Communication and is interested in Black musical performance and its intersections with race, class, and gender. His broader research interests include popular music, race and ethnicity, popular culture, political economy, and media effects.

Kristen Sun


Kristen Sun is a PhD candidate in the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. She graduated from Northwestern University in 2011 with a BA in American Studies. Currently, her work focuses on representations of sexual/gendered violence in war in South Korean and American films, museums, and memorials with a particular focus on WWII and the Korean War. She received a Fulbright Fellowship and will be conducting dissertation research in the 2014-2015 academic year, conducting a study of Korean War memorials, museums, and films in South Korea as well as memorials, museums, and films that focus on the "comfort women" (military sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial army during WII). Her dissertation research seeks to bring together contemporary transnational memorial activism across South Korea and the U.S. with state-sanctioned and popular cultural representations of war that often obscure sexual/gendered violence during and after combat.