Graduate Opportunity Fellowship Program (GOFP)

  • Entering students pursuing terminal or professional master’s degrees or the JD who meet the diversity criteria below are encouraged to apply.
  • The diversity of the people of California has been the source of innovative ideas and creative accomplishments throughout the state’s history into the present. Diversity – a defining feature of California’s past, present, and future – refers to the variety of personal experiences, values, and worldviews that arise from differences of culture and circumstance. Such differences include race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, language, abilities/disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, and geographic region, and more.Regents Policy 4400: Policy on University of California Diversity Statement | Board of Regents
  • Applicants must be nominated by their home department.
  • One year of funding from the Graduate Division
    • $20,000 stipend + fees/tuition + non-resident supplemental tuition (if applicable)
    • If awardee is in a professional degree program, the professional degree supplemental tuition is not provided by this fellowship.
  • Fellows may not work in the first term of the fellowship.
  • PhD, DrPH, DEnv, DMA, MD or DDS degrees are not eligible.
  • Eligibility
    • U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or undocumented students who qualify for nonresident supplemental tuition exemptions under AB 540
  • Apply
    • The deadline is the same as the deadline for your admissions application. Contact your prospective home department for any exceptions.
    • Review the GOFP Application Instructions and complete the appropriate sections within the online admissions application, including the Personal Statement.

Say hello to some Graduate Opportunity Fellowship Program Fellows

Melina V. RodriguezMelina V. Rodriguez
Community Health Sciences

Undergraduate School/Department: California State University, Los Angeles/Public Health

Academic Interests

I am interested in understanding the social determinants of health and addressing health disparities through community-based research methods, specifically among underserved populations. As a daughter of immigrants, I am particularly interested in working with immigrant populations and investigating how their immigration status impacts various health outcomes. The late Dr. Farmer said it best, “Equity is the only acceptable goal.” I am passionate about building health equity directly alongside communities that need it most.

Brief Biography

Throughout my childhood, my immigrant parents relied on me to communicate the English-speaking world to them. Whether translating at parent-teacher conferences or translating a piece of mail, I was their direct access to information. When my father was hospitalized for an emergency appendectomy, I was a seven-year-old struggling to translate medical information into Spanish for my parents. As I got older and realized this was a common problem within the immigrant community, I felt compelled by a sense of justice to take action.

What started as community organizing for immigrant rights developed into community advocacy for social justice issues, including anti-police brutality, environmental justice, housing accessibility, and labor rights. This work broadened my perspective on the intersectionality of policy, health systems, and individual health, and motivated me to pursue a career in public health.

I am inspired by my family’s perseverance and the resilience of the communities I worked with as a community organizer. I believe that I am “community-made.” Therefore, I am dedicated to using my education to uplift communities impacted by the social and economic factors that affect their daily lives.

If stranded on a deserted island with only one type of meal to eat every day, what would you want it to be?

Ceviche tostadas.

If you did not pursue a graduate degree, what would you be doing?

I think I might have pursued working as a community health worker, or a position at a labor rights organization


Rigoberto Perez HernandezRigoberto Perez Hernandez
Health Policy

Undergraduate School/Department: Cornell University/Human Biology, Health, Society

Academic Interests

I am particularly interested in studying and addressing the long-term implications and comorbidities associated with obesity. While I plan to be actively involved in clinical practice, I also expect to use my public health training to direct my own community obesity prevention and management program in disadvantaged populations. Using my training in the Health Policy and Management tracks at the UCLA Jonathan and Karin Fielding School of Public Health, one of my goals is to be able to use data collected from large-scale studies and interventions to produce evidence-based conclusions and direct policies to help decrease the rates of comorbidities associated with obesity.

Brief Biography

Known for its famous Martinelli’s Apple Cider and Driscoll’s berries, Watsonville, CA, has been my home and source of inspiration for my future ambitions as a medical doctor and public health advocate. Because of the incredible mentorship throughout high school, I was able to attend Cornell University, and become the first in my family to graduate from college.

During my time at Cornell, I served on the African, Latino, Asian, and Native American Intercultural Board and facilitated the Dining with Diverse Minds discussion series to stimulate intercultural dialogue and collaborations across campus. I also founded the Cornell Science Organization of Latinos (SOL) to help increase the number of underrepresented students in medicine through mentorship and service to the community. After graduating from college, I worked with Jovenes SANOS (Healthy Youth) to implement a diet and nutrition curriculum to combat childhood obesity and diabetes in under-resourced regions of Santa Cruz County.

These early experiences led me to the Program in Medical Education -Leadership & Advocacy (PRIME-LA) at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Throughout my four years in medical school, I have been involved with the American Medical Association, UCLA PRIME-LA Council, the First-Generation Students at UCLA DGSOM, and served on the Admissions Committee. As a lifelong learner, I intend to grow and continue using my public health background in all my professional, clinical, and academic pursuits.

If stranded on a deserted island with only one type of meal to eat every day, what would you want it to be?

My mother’s homemade green chile chicken enchiladas! My goal is to one day be able to perfectly replicate them to share how delicious they are.

If you did not pursue a graduate degree, what would you be doing?

With my background in medicine, I would be working to improve patient care as a medical doctor. I also considered a career in government and politics, as a former American Legion Boys’ State Delegate.


Breelin AlexanderKyreeana Breelin Alexander
Choreographic Inquiry

Undergraduate School/Department: California Institute of the Arts, Dance/Choreography

Photo: Neil G. Philips

Academic Interests

I am interested in making interdisciplinary work, specifically fusing music, dance, writing, and film. I am interested in how expression through these particular artistic outlets becomes its own language, voicing ideas and sentiments through expressed creativity. I aim to make work that functionally and seamlessly combines all of these aspects to portray one inspired vision. I speak the language of imagination to relate messages of hope, joy, and playfulness through my art. 

Brief Biography

My interest in dance began through an arts and education program sponsored through our local Baptist Church under the guidance of France A. Davis, who was active in the cultural awareness of the African American community in Salt Lake City, Utah. Through the church, my mom founded a children’s dance ensemble called Colors of Life which combined the talents of the surrounding community. My brother and I were both participants in the company, performing song and dance. I pursued dance as a major once my family moved to Colorado at Denver School of the Arts, where I honed my craft and developed an interest in all facets of movement. I moved to California to attend California Institute of the Arts, where I majored in dance and minored in Digital Arts, allowing me to begin implementing my interdisciplinary vision. After graduating, I performed with various companies as well as collaborative works alongside my brother under his (then titled) company, The Paint Brush Game, while teaching for steady income. I also volunteered for four years as a mentor at JOYA Scholars, which helps students who (much like myself) may not have the means to pursue higher learning but are passionate about their studies. Because of my passion for connecting with others through the arts, it is my desire to show that with determination and commitment, artists can yield endless fruit that can feed and inspire many.

If stranded on a deserted island with only one type of meal to eat every day, what would you want it to be?

Pancakes and syrup because all the vital nutrients are there, as you can see in this equation:

50% Good for my soul + 50% Good for my soul =100% Happy Me  

If you did not pursue a graduate degree, what would you be doing?

Creating and Performing, anywhere and everywhere, all the time!



Selasi EtcheySelasi Etchey

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Undergraduate School/Department: University of Colorado – Boulder/Electrical Engineering

Academic Interests

My academic interests within Electrical Engineering include Embedded Systems and Mixed-Signal ASIC design. I’ve always been insistent that my work should benefit interests of society as a whole, and so I hope to be able to apply the skills I gain throughout my degree program at UCLA in the design and implementation of medical devices.

Brief Biography

I was born in Ghana, West Africa, and immigrated to the United States (specifically Aurora, CO) at the age of 2. As a child I always envisioned myself becoming a doctor or nurse because I looked up to my mother, who was a registered nurse, and knew I wanted to help my community in a similar way. After graduating from high school, I decided to enroll at The University of Colorado – Boulder in Electrical Engineering because I had also developed a love for science and problem solving, and I ultimately knew that this path could lead me in a direction where I’d be able to help others as well.

After completing my undergraduate degree, I accepted a job at The Aerospace Corporation in Los Angeles, California, where I provided engineering support in power electronics for satellite and launch vehicle programs. During my time in Los Angeles, I also fell in love with my local community, dedicating my Saturday mornings to volunteering with the africActive food drive in Crenshaw, and also running Circuits & Embedded Systems workshops for middle/elementary school students with The Bridge Builders Foundation during the summers.

My acceptance into the Electrical and Computer Engineering Master’s program at UCLA has empowered me to continue to improve my technical skills while also being close to the community that I’ve grown attached to over the last couple of years.

If stranded on a deserted island with only one type of meal to eat every day, what would you want it to be?

West African (Ghanian) Jollof Rice would definitely be at the top of my list, also with some Puff-Puff (Ghanian Donut treat)

If you did not pursue a graduate degree, what would you be doing?

I would probably still be working at The Aerospace Corporation.


Marcy CervantesMaricela Cervantes
Community Health Sciences

Undergraduate School/Department: California State University, Los Angeles/Sociology

Academic Interests

  • The health and mental health implications of racism, discrimination, and chronic stress; community-based solutions to health and educational disparities within communities that have been unserved, underserved, and/or inappropriately served.
  • The prevention and intervention of communicable diseases through education, counseling, and improving provider practices.

Brief Biography

As the eldest of four, raised by a single mother, I had to make many sacrifices to help support my family. Thus, it took me a while to complete my undergraduate degree. Three schools (San Francisco State University, Santa Ana College, and California State University, Los Angeles) and six years later, I graduated with a BA in Sociology.

While at CSULA, I helped organize for social and racial justice through my role as a board member of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA) and through my role as a team lead for the National Association of Social Workers–CA Lobby Days.

My degree was in sociology, but I still had a strong interest in health, which motivated me to become a nursing volunteer at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. During my last year of undergrad, I had the opportunity to intern at the CA Department of Public Health in the Office of Health Equity. This experience allowed me to combine my interests in health and social justice and ultimately influenced my decision to pursue a career in public health.

As the Community Engagement Coordinator and a Disease Intervention Specialist in the Centers for Disease Control’s Public Health Associate Program in CA’s Central Valley, I have seen how social determinants of health can have negative impacts on the prevention, screening, and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. After working in the field for two years, I am ready to contribute my personal and professional experiences to the Fielding School of Public Health.

If stranded on a deserted island with only one type of meal to eat every day, what would you want it to be?

My abuela’s rice

If you did not pursue a graduate degree, what would you be doing?

I would probably be finishing my pre-requisites for nursing school.


Muthia FaizahMuthia Faizah
Urban & Regional Planning

Undergraduate School/Department: University of California, Davis/Community and Regional Development

Academic Interests

I am interested in studying the wide range of social, economic and technical factors and the effect these elements have on housing, the built environment and communities. I view planning as a creative process requiring the ability to understand and balance sociology, economic and political science issues. The planning process is crucial, and urban planners are vital in the construction of sustainable, equitable and affordable cities, infrastructure and planned public services.

Brief Biography

I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, and raised in Reseda, California. I came to UC Davis undeclared, not knowing what I wanted to pursue as a career but knowing I wanted to make a positive change in the underserved community where I grew up. Toward the end of my first year, I found the Community and Regional Development major and how it incorporated aspects of sociology, political science and economics while working directly with people in order to make a difference.

Throughout my undergraduate career, I had the opportunity to experience several research positions, internships and organizations that shaped my interests in planning. As an immigrant from a working-class background, I enjoyed gaining different perspectives from communities by being part of and leading student organizations meant to foster a diverse environment in a historically homogeneous place.

During my last year as an undergrad, I became an intern for Mutual Housing California through the California Coalition for Rural Housing (CCRH). During my time at CCRH, I worked with different departments of affordable housing development agency and was able to explore and hone in on what aspect of affordable housing I am most interested in. Additionally, I worked with my professor on research regarding rural indicators and the environmental justice element of the general plan. These positions provided perspective and practice in order to prepare me to understand the pressing issues facing urban planners.

If stranded on a deserted island with only one type of meal to eat every day, what would you want it to be?

I would choose all types of bread. I love bread! More specifically, the yummy bread my grandma bakes with different types of fillings!

If you did not pursue a graduate degree, what would you be doing?

I would be applying for entry-level positions as an urban planner in local government or private planning agency.


Joslyn GarciaJoslyn Garcia
Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Undergraduate School/Department: University of California, Los Angeles/Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Academic Interests

Broadly, my interests lie in product design, specifically catering to the needs and experience of the consumer. I love thinking about ways to solve problems that ultimately enhance someone’s experience of a product.

Within the field of Mechanical Engineering, I am passionate about mechatronics. Whether it’s dynamics, mechanisms, programming in MATLAB, or electrical circuits, I’m all for it. Through my academic goals, I hope to inspire and excite women and Latina/os like myself to pursue higher degrees in STEM fields.

Brief Biography

I come from an amazing, hard-working, immigrant family. My father came to the US from Mexico to find work and met my mother while they were both working in strawberry fields together. I am a first-generation college student, so pursuing a master’s degree is an exciting chapter for me in representing my family. Entering UCLA as double minority in engineering, being both female and Latina, initially intimidated me. Thankfully, the CEED program assisted me in various areas, encouraging me to apply for internships, do well in my courses, and get involved in various campus communities.

Throughout my undergraduate career, I’ve had opportunities to intern at NASA Ames Research Center, Toyota, Northrop Grumman, and HP. During the summer of 2019. I am excited to be interning for Walt Disney as an Imagineer. In my graduate studies, I hope to deepen my knowledge of the various fields that I love within Mechanical Engineering to be the best engineer that I can be!

If stranded on a deserted island with only one type of meal to eat every day, what would you want it to be?

Tacos! And all the toppings and sides involved.

If you did not pursue a graduate degree, what would you be doing?

If it were not for the GOFP, I would have gone straight into industry as a technical engineer after graduating with my bachelor’s.



Kearra GopeeKearra Gopee

Art

Undergraduate School/Department: New York University/Photography & Imaging

Photo: Jeana Lindo

Academic Interests

My research-based art practice focuses on the nature of violence and erasure and the particularities of that which is inflicted on the Caribbean by the global north. Using personal experiences as a point of departure, I address themes of migration, intergenerational trauma, queerness, and difference while seeking to complicate the viewer’s understanding of economic and social marginalization in the postcolonial Caribbean.

Through a variety of media, my observations are translated into ephemeral photographs, installations, and objects, interweaving the personal with the historical, the mythological with the material.

Brief Biography

I am a multidisciplinary visual artist born in Miami, FL, and raised in Carapichaima, Trinidad and Tobago. My undergraduate career began at St. John’s University in Queens, NY, where I majored in advertising. In my sophomore year, I transferred to New York University to pursue a BFA in Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts.  I graduated in 2017 with a minor in Africana Studies from the Social and Cultural Analysis department in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Since then, I’ve served as the Programs and Development manager at New York-based artist residency Triangle Arts Association. After leaving Triangle to focus on my art practice in 2018, I have traveled extensively to pursue residencies in the Caribbean, Europe, and the US.

If stranded on a deserted island with only one type of meal to eat every day, what would you want it to be?

Goat roti

If you did not pursue a graduate degree, what would you be doing?

Writing, most likely



Joseph HendersonJoseph Henderson

Theater, Film, & Television

Undergraduate School/Department: Jackson State University/Speech Communication and Theatre

Academic Interests

As I enter the University of California, Los Angeles, I want to further explore my unique acting and artist capabilities, study the fabrications that comes with theatre, film, and television, and overall sit at the feet of the world’s most respected theater practitioners.

Brief Biography

Having the opportunity to attend a Historical Black College and University in Jackson, MS, I had the honor of being in the city of soul, where my education was grounded in the beauty and struggle of the African-American experience. Serving as President of the National Association for Dramatic Speech Art, I placed leadership at the forefront of my education, bridging not only the gap between the students and administration but also continuing the rich legacy.

Being part of several of our schools plays, I was the Irene Ryan Nominee for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. I won several awards in undergraduate school such as Highest GPA in the Department of Theatre, National Dean’s List Scholar, and Who’s Who in American Universities. I also starred in a music video with such artists as Brandy and Common.

As I begin UCLA’s master’s program, I search to learn the skill of being an artist in its most truthful form through studying its history and answering a simple question, “What are our new classics?” I also have always been intrigued with film and television, which is why I chose to attend such a groundbreaking and unique department.

Bringing light on diverse perspectives is what I want to contribute to this program—a philosophy that everyone has a story and that everyone’s story deserves to be represented truthfully and culturally.

If stranded on a deserted island with only one type of meal to eat every day, what would you want it to be?

Pizza and wings

If you did not pursue a graduate degree, what would you be doing?

I would go straight into the industry. But I understand that there is more training I could receive, and I love to be around a community that loves and respects art. That is why I am pursing my master’s degree.



Jose Yobani LopezJose Yobani Lopez

Education

Undergraduate School/Department: Yale University/Chemistry

Academic Interests

Through my academic learning and my future teaching, I strive to understand the best pedagogical practices for educating low-income students from immigrant backgrounds. Guided by my own experience of having to reconcile my low-income Xicano background with my growing familiarity and engagement with elite white culture and spaces, I question the definitions of education and its purpose that are expressed to and adopted by such students (low income, of color, from immigrant backgrounds), and how they influence a student’s ability to take ownership over their own learning. I consider theories of social capital and cultural capital to begin understanding the sociological context of this issue.

Brief Biography

I am proud to have been born and raised in the Westlake barrio of Downtown Los Angeles, CA, to two Mexican immigrant parents who abandoned their dreams of education at a young age to sustain their families. My father was a seamster in the Fashion District, and my mother worked as a janitor and babysitter.

I grew up guided by two beliefs: that I would amount to something for the people I cared about, and that the people I cared about most suffered real consequences because of definitions of belonging. These beliefs helped me excel in new worlds: a musician throughout high school and a chemist at Yale. They also culminated in a commitment to study and practice education for underserved communities.

I developed a close relationship with the first-generation low-income (FGLI) community at Yale, which provided me a community to reflect on my background and deal with the social challenges that such students face. I later gave back to this community as a mentor, advocate, and most recently, founder of The Community Initiative, Yale’s first administrative effort to support and empower specifically FGLI students, as part of my Woodbridge Fellowship immediately after graduating.

I am excited to return to Los Angeles to share messages of empowerment with younger low-income Latinx students. But I also plan to continue developing an intellectual understanding of how to revolutionize educational systems so that they are more inclusive of the peoples I consider family.

In my free time, I love biking through different parts of the city, celebrating the arts (I’ve done jazz trumpet in high school and Mexican folk dance in college), and watching films with good company.

If stranded on a deserted island with only one type of meal to eat every day, what would you want it to be?

Tacos de asada con frijoles y horchata —a simple meal doesn’t make it any less classic.

If you did not pursue a graduate degree, what would you be doing?

I’ve entertained the idea of having a career as an educator in México! I’d be closer to family and would be curious to attend una escuela normal (education school). If money wasn’t an issue, I’d love to travel Latinoamérica and do some sort of film project.