Our Fellows

Class of 2017

Gustavo Berrizbeitia

Gustavo Berrizbeitia is a junior pursuing a double major in Political Science and Philosophy. His academic interests focus on civil and political rights as part of a broader process of democratization, under the larger theoretical framework of power and subjectivity. Gustavo is particularly interested in two fields: recent critical theories of power (particularly the work of Foucault and Butler), and the societal disenfranchisement of minorities in the United States and other countries; such as France and Israel. He is presently researching the passage of restrictive voter identification laws in Texas.

Rachel D'Amato

Rachel D’Amato is a third year student currently majoring in English Literature and minoring in African American studies. As a first-generation mixed-race student, Rachel has research interests in Mixed Race Studies, African American Studies, and Intersectional Gender Studies. Currently, she is designing a research project on mixed-race identity in novels with characters with mis-identified races and/or ethnicities.

Fatima Gomez

Fatima Gomez is a Chicana from Milwaukee majoring in Latina/o Studies and Creative Writing (Poetry), and minoring in Anthropology. She is particularly interested in how expressive cultures serve to heal people with marginalized identities, how these forms of expressive culture are appropriated, and how marginalized people go about reclaiming appropriated forms of expressive culture. Fatima's research explores the various meanings of La Virgen de Guadalupe. Fatima is also a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholar.

Adel Lahlou

Adel Lahlou is a first-generation American/college student pursuing a BS and MS in Computer Science with a focus on Systems. He has a strong interest in education technology, and is currently interested in researching feedback and learning patterns within online learning and artificial intelligence environments. Adel is also a Teaching Assistant in computer science at Northwestern University, and enjoys spending time outdoors. Adel is the recipient of the Norman Fund Grant, QuestScholar Service Grant, Northwestern Undergraduate Research Grant, as well as a Buick National Achiever.

Rocio Mendez-Rozo

Rocio Mendez-Rozo is a junior in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, double majoring in English and Latino Studies. Her research interests include Latino Literature from the 20th century, and she is currently interested in literature produced through Nuyorican poetry and musical genres that emerged during the 60s and 70s. Before Mellon Mays, Rocio conducted research as a Posner Fellow at Northwestern University, and was also a recipient of the J.G. Nolan Scholarship for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Class of 2016

Hazim Abdullah-Smith

Hazim Abdullah-Smith is a Senior majoring in African American Studies and Ethnic Studies (with a certificate in Civic Engagement). Hazim is interested in making an impact through political, social and scholarly activism. His activist commitments include Palestine solidarity, prison abolition, outreach to LGBTQ incarcerated people and fugitive study in the academy. He has studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal, where he completed an independent research project titled "Carceral Rhymes: HipHop, Prisons and Intervention in Senegal". Currently, his research focuses on (in)visibility, violence and the spatial practices of race in Ralph Ellison's 'Invisible Man'.

Cinthya Rodriguez

Cinthya Rodriguez is a working class, 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 liberatory education and grassroots organizing. Her research interests include border militarization, prison abolition, Critical Ethnic Studies, Women of Color Feminisms, and Critical Pedagogy. Currently, she is working on a senior thesis to describe the institutionalization of Ethnic Studies in Chicago public schools by understanding Chicago as a settler colonial city, and the Chicago Public Schools system as constituted through racial governance. Her research interests are also grounded in her activism and seek to trace a genealogy of Chicana/o and Palestinian solidarity. 

DeAnna Smith

DeAnna Smith, a Senior 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. In 2014, DeAnna interned with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights as part of her work as a Global Engagement Fellow.

Ariana Steele

Ariana Steele is a Senior in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences studying Linguistics and Cognitive Science. Her current focus is on sociophonetics, but she has strong ties to psycholinguistics in her previous research. Inspired by her studies and experiences from her junior year abroad in France and Scotland, Ariana is interested in how the interplay between our perception of language and people may reflect subconscious biases. Currently, she is working on an honors thesis involving reverse linguistic stereotyping: how seeing a person's face (in particular their race) affects how we perceive that person's speech. After graduation, Ariana will pursue a PhD in Linguistics, focusing on sociophonetics and sociolinguistics, and work towards a career in academia as a female professor of color. She has been accepted into Ohio State University's Ph.D. program in Linguistics.

Alberto Takase

As a senior 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, Alberto 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.

Program Alumni

Class of 2015

Sarah Bridgewaters

Sarah Bridgewaters graduated in 2015 with a degree in African American Studies from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Her experiences growing up as a person of color spurred her interest in education; specifically, educational disparities within public school systems. Her research as a Mellon fellow focused on discrimination and systemic racism within the Chicago Public Schools, namely the two-tiered public school system. Her senior thesis analyzed the media representation of the most recent mass of school closings to understand the ways the closings were discussed, and how students of color/low-income were portrayed.

Aozora Brockman

Aozora (Zoe) Brockman graduated in in 2015 with a degree in Creative Writing (poetry), and Asian American Studies (minor). In 2013, 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. Additionally, she led a panel on media and Asian/ Asian American stereotypes for the 2014 Asian American Studies Conference in San Francisco. In summer of 2014, Zoe gathered ethnographic data on Korean-Japanese bi-ethnics in Japan in order to research the effects of current tensions between South Korea and Japan on ethnic and cultural identity formation. In 2015, she completed a Honors Senior Thesis on Creative Writing. Zoe currently works on her family's organic vegetable farm.

Christian Keeve

Christian (Chris) Keeve graduated from Northwestern University in 2015 with a degree in Environmental Science with a focus on plant ecology. Additionally, he majored in Urban Studies with a minor in African-American Studies. He plans to use the unique combinations of these subject areas to inform his future research projects. 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. 

Zaynab Quadri

Zaynab Quadri was a History (American history) major and Anthropology (Cultural anthropology) minor, graduating from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in 2015. Her first project analyzed James Bond and white masculinity in the 1960s/1970s American context. Her senior honors thesis in the history department took a different turn, analyzing the rhetoric of slavery and genocide in the American abortion debate in the 1960s through the 1980s. In the future, Zaynab hopes to pursue graduate study in history, examining the history of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East in the twentieth century.

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. Soad is a Bill Emerson Hunger Fellow.

Liz Pinedo


Liz is in her second year 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. In 2015, Liz was awarded the Pickering Fellowship. After graduation, Liz will be entering the U.S. Foreign Service with the U.S. Department of State.

Claire Dillon


Claire Dillon graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude in 2014 with a degree in Art History and a minor in Italian. She was recently named a 2016–2017 George J. Mitchell Scholar, and will pursue a Master's degree in Medieval Language, Literature and Culture at Trinity College Dublin in Fall 2016. As an undergraduate, with support from the Mellon Mays Program, Claire 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 senior research project, which received the J. Carson Webster Prize for Distinguished Honors Thesis, focused on issues of identity negation, negotiation, and solidarity in reinterpretations of work by artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres. After graduating, Claire worked as the editorial assistant for the publication Art Journal and as the Director of Education and Outreach for ART WORKS Projects. Following her year at Trinity, Claire 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. Amrit is currently applying to Ph.D. programs in Black Studies and Literature for Fall 2016.

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. Serena is the current Associate Director of College Access at Evanston Scholars.

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 graduated with 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. Rafael is currently pursuing a PhD in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University, where he researches 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 currently applying to graduate programs in Africana Studies and Comparative Literature in Fall 2016 where he hopes to engage in research concerning 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 is currently a Bilingual Elementary School Teacher with 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. Dana completed her Master's of Education in Education, Culture and Society at The University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, where she was a Centennial Scholar. Dana is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Studies - Educational Foundations and Policy at the University of Michigan.

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 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.