Graduate Opportunity Fellowship Program (GOFP)

  • For entering students pursuing terminal or professional master’s degrees or the JD
  • Individuals from cultural, racial, linguistic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds that are currently underrepresented in graduate education are especially encouraged to participate in the program. The intent of this fellowship is to provide access to higher education for students who might otherwise find it difficult or impossible to successfully pursue graduate study.
  • 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. If you’ve already submitted your admissions application, complete both the Fellowship Application for Entering Graduate Students and a Diversity Statement (instructions are given at the link just mentioned). Send both to your prospective home department.

Say hello to some Graduate Opportunity Fellowship Program Fellows

Inez AlegriaInez Alegria
Nursing
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017
Academic Interests

My interest in being a pediatric nurse is rooted in my desire to provide quality healthcare to the underprivileged, a group whose healthcare is often considered insignificant. Most importantly, my motivation for becoming a nurse is driven by my passion for advancing medicine, serving others, and making a difference in people’s lives, regardless of how small the difference may be.

Brief Biography

I am a first-generation college student, but I have never viewed it as a disadvantage. Instead, it has inspired me to work hard and go confidently towards my path in life, no matter what obstacles I encounter. Through my struggles, I am grateful for all the people who have helped me, and I desire to do the same—to give back to the community by serving others to the best of my ability. Following my undergrad career, I began to work as a clinical research coordinator. I led pediatric-focused research studies centered around neurological and mental illnesses. I have immersed myself in various community-service organizations dedicated to serving underprivileged children. My experiences of tutoring homeless children, reading to disadvantaged elementary school students in Los Angeles, and serving as a camp counselor for Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times ultimately inspired me to be that provider of influence and hope in another child’s life. Nurses make a positive impact on the daily lives of their patients, and I am looking forward to the fulfilling feeling of seeing my patients grow healthier and stronger under my care.

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

It would definitely have to be chicken taquitos with guacamole and Spanish rice.

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

I would continue working in clinical research while striving to make a difference in my pediatric patients’ lives.


Sylvia BlushSylvia Blush
Theater, Film & TV
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017
Academic Interests

I am invested in the art of storytelling and the multiple facets through which stories are told.  I aim to deepen my understanding of the world and human condition through the passing of stories.

Brief Biography

I have been a dance and theater practitioner on stage, backstage and in the classroom since 1992, when at the age of 16 I began teaching dance at the Rio Hondo Boys and Girls Club in Bell Gardens, CA. Most recently I was an instructor for South Coast Repertory’s (SCR) Neighborhood Conservatory in partnership with the Illumination Foundation, offering acting classes for youth at risk of being homeless. I worked as assistant director on The Count of Monte Cristo at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in conjunction with the FAIR Experience Program. I am the recipient of the Andrew W Mellon/Los Angeles Theatre Center Future Artistic Leaders Fellowship.

As a teaching artist through SCR I helped facilitate 12 story circles to create a community engagement production of El Largo Camino de Hoy/The Long Road Today: a play inspired by and for the residents of Santa Ana, CA. I have self-produced and directed productions of Luis Alfaro’s Electricidad and The Vagina Monologues/Los Monólogos de la Vagina, raising a combined $9,000 for Homeboy Industries, The East Los Angeles Women’s Center and South Gate P.D. Family Violence and Prevention Programs. I am the second youngest of five and the first in my nuclear family to graduate from college and enter a master’s program.

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

I want to say pizza because of the yummy melted cheese, but I would probably say potatoes because they can be made in a variety of ways.

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

I would be in the trenches of producing and directing theater with friends, continuing teaching and probably getting a little more sleep.



Sarah Rosalena BradySarah Rosalena Brady

Design Media Arts
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

I am a new media artist working in film, computation, and sound based in Los Angeles.

Brief Biography

My work offers transcendence by creating alternative realities outside the logic of colonization. My goal is to transform Western ideological systems and structures through immersion to produce new paradigms. I imply a different contextual environment that is transformative and transformational: a shapeshifter.

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

Pasta

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

I would be working at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art doing AV Tech for installations and performances.


Rosa CelestinoRosa Celestino
Library & Information Studies
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

I have interdisciplinary academic interests including Art History, Philosophy, Sociology, Film, Digital Media, Photography and Chicano Studies. I find it very useful to have an open mind about these fields and engaging and applying them to my course of study. There is a lot of overlap among these fields, and I am interested in their sociology.

Brief Biography

I am the oldest of four children and a first-generation college graduate in my entire family in both Mexico and the United States. Since childhood I always questioned the way society works and functions, realized the disadvantages that people endure due to society, and how society shapes people and their behavior. I can say that I have a sociological imagination and have applied this way of thinking in both academia and in my own relationships.

During my undergraduate career here at UCLA,  I conducted research about community arts and artists in Downtown Santa Ana while showcasing and organizing community art shows for the monthly Santa Ana art walks. I hope to open a community gallery in order for artists to have a safe space to express themselves. Art is a healthy way of expressing emotion and is useful for all walks of life. I encourage people to produce art and find their niches.

I have enjoyed reading anything I could get my hands since grade school and out of that grew my passion for libraries and special collections. It is important to acknowledge how library and information systems shape education and academic discourses.  These in turn affect how information gets described, interpreted and perceived. I want to focus my thesis on library systems and the way they shape discourses through controlled vocabularies rather than folksonomies.

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 like to have bean and cheese pupusas. Pupusas are corn dough disks stuffed with either vegetables and/or meat. Since I am vegetarian, I would only eat  bean and cheese or vegetable pupusas.

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

I would open a community-based gallery in Downtown Santa Ana in order to have a safe space for POC artists. I would also be photographing and documenting the city of Santa Ana and its people. Lastly, I would be going back and forth to Mexico to conduct my own research about the Coxcatlan Cave, in Coxcatlan, Puebla Mexico, where my grandparents and father are from.


Roosevelt DavisRoosevelt Davis
Nursing
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My current academic interests consist of providing and promoting optimal healthcare to everyone. I am particularly interested in helping people all across the globe by traveling within my profession. I would like to be directly involved with athletes, and my end goal is to provide anesthesia to  patients.

Brief Biography

My undergraduate experience was an interesting journey. I entered UCLA in 2011, majoring in political science and playing football. I was awarded an athletic scholarship for my performance on the field and for my dedicated work studies off the field. During my undergraduate experience I was greatly influenced to pursue nursing after my brother suffered a career-ending injury in football. Also, I realized that I have a knack for putting others first. In addition, the support and information from my Mother, Aunt, and Grandmother—who worked in the hospitals—inspired me to become a nurse.  Towards the end of my undergraduate experience I finished my political science classes along with all the required prerequisites for nursing while playing college football. In 2016 I was blessed with the opportunity to fulfill my dreams at the UCLA School of Nursing.

Currently, my graduate experience is all that I’ve expected and more. It is heart-warming, intriguing, and challenging. Alongside of my amazing colleagues in the MECN program, I am excited to continue this amazing path to become the best nurse 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?

Chicken Alfredo and lemonade!

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

Playing pro or semipro football



Gabriel FernandezGabriel Fernandez

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My academic interests lie in the development of haptic (tactile) devices, specifically related to robotics. A large disconnect still exists between user-to-technology interfacing. As our dependency on technology skyrockets, a need for a more immersive and intuitive connection will exponentially increase.

Brief Biography

I was born and raised in Hawaii. Actually, in my first year of undergrad I went to UCLA and played on the varsity football team while majoring in civil engineering. Due to a series of events, my father thought it’d be best if I continued my football and academic career at Yale University. Upon graduating from Yale three years later, I received a fellowship, the Yale–China Fellowship, to work in rural China for two years. Before going to China I had no prior experience with the language. To say the least in this completely new environment I grew tremendously as a person. After the fellowship I took another year to study Chinese full time at Fudan University in Shanghai. Finally, I decided to come back to graduate school to further my education where it all started. Full circle.

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

I’d have to say a local, Hawaiian-style, filled with mom’s love and care kind of bento (an assortment of different foods put into one plate). Google Zippy’s Zip Pac to get a better idea.

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

I would probably be working for a large tech company or startup.



Jacob FerruzziJacob Ferruzzi

African American Studies
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My current research centers around Black political prisoners in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s, with a specific focus on political prisoners who identify as women. I’m studying the state’s use of incarceration as a tool for control over social movements as well as forms of resistance among political prisoners.

Brief Biography

I am originally from Chicago, IL, and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As an undergraduate, I majored in African American Studies, History, and Political Science with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies. At UIUC, my interest in social justice grew as I learned more about institutionalized racism and other forms of structural oppression. I co-directed a mentoring program for youth affected by the criminal justice system and assisted in a research lab studying civic engagement among youth of color in Chicago. During my senior year, I had the opportunity to travel to Cape Town, South Africa, to study the continued existence of apartheid. I also interned for Illinois State Representative Carol Ammons, where I led a community panel focused on reforming the Illinois criminal justice system. After earning my master’s at UCLA, I hope to attend law school with a concentration in civil rights/social justice law.

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

Cheese pizza without a doubt

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

I would be working at a non-profit organization.



Edgar GarciaEdgar Garcia

Urban Planning
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My interests are focused on community development and housing, specifically, how local governments can foment affordable housing development in all areas of the city. Part of this necessitates an equal distribution of government services around a city and access to efficient public transit so all citizens can benefit.

Brief Biography

I was born on the Texas–Mexico border and from an early age became interested in public service and how governments could improve the lives of disadvantaged communities. While studying at Texas A&M, I focused on how government bureaucracies can become more efficient while expanding services to the community. After graduation, I went back to my hometown of Brownsville, TX, and began working in the community-development field. During this time I was able to work on projects that would have a direct impact on the low-income community of Brownsville, such as a performing arts academy for underprivileged students and a safety shelter dome for the community in case of hurricanes. Working with low-income communities has reinvigorated my desire to continue in public service to make lasting changes to the ways cities are run.

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

I’m originally from Texas, so give me some good BBQ and I can live on that island as long as I need to.

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

Public service is my passion, so I would probably still find myself working for my community in one way or another.



Jose GonzalezJose Gonzalez

Civil & Environmental Engineering
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My academic interests include microbial and physiochemical processes in wastewater treatment and how these processes may contribute to nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions. I believe there is a great opportunity for emission estimation methodologies to be developed or refined for future policy regulations in this field.

Brief Biography

My undergraduate career began at Cal Poly Pomona, where I studied Civil Engineering and found a great interest in the environmental field. I became aware of the vital role water plays in securing our livelihood and the environmental challenges our communities face, such as variations in both the spatial and temporal distributions of water availability. I conducted research where I performed experiments on commonly used neonicotinoid insecticides and studied the cause of concern for their use in the environment due to their potential toxicity to non-target species. My laboratory work focused on the hydrolysis of three neonicotinoids (dinotefuran, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) by analyzing their hydrolysis rate constant at different pH and temperature values. During the summer months, I gained experience in atmospheric dispersion modeling and calculating and reporting annual anthropogenic methane and nitrous oxide emissions for Los Angeles County.

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

Definitely water would be a priority, but I’d love rotisserie chicken with wild rice and garbanzo bean hummus with parmesan pita chips.

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

I would be doing environmental work for the government and studying for the principles and practice of engineering exam to attain state certification.



Christian GreenChristian Green

African American Studies
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

Interests include law, civil rights, equity, access to resources, inclusion, and serving the community. One of my ultimate dreams is to change one piece, any piece, of legislation that could potentially bring about equity for resources to underprivileged and underrepresented communities.

Brief Biography

I transferred to UCLA as a Wassermann TAP Scholar in 2014 from Mt. San Antonio Community College as a non-traditional student. My background and biography derive from a dysfunctional underprivileged family and support system including being raised by my grandparents, living in the foster care system, and ultimately never meeting neither of my parents. I have achieved many goals in my life, and graduating from UCLA this past summer was my biggest accomplishment thus far. Now, I am currently working on getting my master’s in African American Studies and will go after my JD or PhD in Education or possibly run for city council next.

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

Crab! King Crab to be exact…. Let’s just hope there is a lemon tree nearby for flavor!

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

I would be teaching for Teach for America or studying for the LSAT!


James Huynh

James Huynh
Community Health Sciences and Asian American Studies
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My academic (and consequently activist) interests lie at the intersection of public health and Asian American Studies—thinking of how to achieve health equity through health policy, community-based participatory research with Southeast Asian communities, and health program planning and evaluating. I’m also interested in contributing research on queer Asian Americans’ health outcomes as it relates to their dual minority status. Other interests include Vietnamese American studies, Vietnam–US relations, and social-political movements.

Brief Biography

I hail from the desert-turned-suburban city of Fontana, CA. As the son of Vietnamese immigrants, I have always kept my goals grounded in the belief that I am my family’s keeper. I came into Stanford wanting to be a neurosurgeon because I thought being a doctor was the clearest route to give back to my family. However, my undergraduate career led me to spaces of community organizing and public service, which radically changed my academic and professional trajectory towards one focused on addressing systemic causes of health, social, and economic inequality. After graduating, I spent a year teaching English in a rural province in Vietnam as a US Fulbright Fellow to learn more about my parents’ homeland, but also to build relationships with youth who are making differences in their towns. Now that I’m back in the States, I hope to connect my experiences in Vietnam with my research on how discrimination, migration, and constructs of race, gender, and sexuality affect the health of Vietnamese Americans.

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 eat my grandma’s phở bò (beef noodle soup). That bowl of soup could nourish my body and soul forever.

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

I would probably still be teaching English in Vietnam because I love my students! If not, then I realistically would be working for a health-care organization while also volunteering with community-based organizations that work with Asian American communities.



Elise KozakElise Kozak

Social Welfare
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My academic interests include learning about mental health practices and prevention within our Veteran population. I am interested in learning about how the effects of early detection, prevention and proper treatment help support families with post-service life. I am also looking forward to learning more about mental health in a gerontology setting.

Brief Biography

I may not know what it is like to enjoy the simplicities of teenage hood: prom, applying for colleges, high-school graduation and anxiously waiting for college-acceptance letters. Being a teenage mother led me down the unconventional path of having to put someone else first, which meant my dreams would have to wait just a little longer.  At 16 I grew up well before my years, and it was those experiences that made me understand what it meant and felt like to be part of a vulnerable population. In 2003, after having graduated with honors from Los Angeles Mission College, I began my undergraduate studies in Sociology at UCLA.

In 2005, my career in the social service field began, where for the last 10 years I have had the honor of serving adults/children with disabilities as well as the elderly, mentally disabled, homeless and Veteran populations. Working for the Department of Public Social Services really opened my eyes to a different level of need, and it is for that reason I decided to pursue a graduate degree. I am happy that I have had the privilege to learn about myself, as well as the needs of those I have served as it has granted me an opportunity to ensure I would be a good fit for a career as an MSW. I look forward to all that I will learn at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, as well as what the next decade has to offer.

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

It would have to be In N Out—a Double Double with no lettuce or onion always hits the spot!

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

I would still be working for the Department of Public Social Services and planning my great escape.



Francisco MancillasFrancisco Mancillas

Electrical Engineering
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My current active research interests include the design of tactile sensors for minimally invasive surgical systems as well as the fabrication processes of flexible electronics for wearable biomedical devices.  Other areas of interest include, but are not limited to, biochemistry, optoelectronics, electrochemistry, quantum mechanical tunneling effects, and special/general relativity.

Brief Biography

My undergraduate journey started at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC), where I managed to earn six associate degrees.  In the Summer of 2013, my arduous work at SBCC’s organic chemistry lab earned me an internship at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in a research project that involved the construction of carbon-nitrogen bonds for useful pharmaceuticals.  I subsequently transferred to UCSD as an Engineering Physics (electrical engineering and physics) major in the Fall of 2013.  To my good fortune, I immediately became a research assistant for the Bandaru Lab upon being selected as a McNair Scholar for the 2013–14 school year.  The research project involved the implementation of innovative materials, such as carbon nanotubes, for the construction of energy storage devices, particularly electrochemical capacitors.  I currently hold a research assistant position at the Electrical Engineering Sensors and Technology Laboratory, where I am responsible for the design of a capacitive pressure sensor to be integrated at the tips of surgical tools.

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

It would be quite amazing to test my survival skills after being stranded on a deserted island.  In addition to water, the only type of meal I would prefer could be seafood, particularly pan-sautéed salmon.  

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

It is very likely I would be looking for a job in the semiconductor industry while being a physics/math tutor.  


Miguel MartinezMiguel Martinez
African American Studies
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My academic interests are in history, philosophy, and until recently economics.  My research is largely centered on the ways in which race and carceral institutions impact people in the United States. I utilize race, penal institutions, and economic dynamics to analyze how the United States established present day mass incarceration and mass deportation.

Brief Biography

I was a transfer student from Mt. San Antonio College before I embarked on my undergraduate career at UCLA. I transferred as a history major. However, I am not like many other students: I am an undocumented student. During my undergraduate career, I held many leadership positions in politically active organizations such as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán (MEChA) and Improving Dreams Equality Access and Success (IDEAS).

UCLA soon challenged me academically. I was very confident in my academic abilities, but I earned a C on my very first history exam. I asked the proper questions of my professor and adjusted my studying and writing formats accordingly. On the next exam, I received an A. Now that I am a graduate student at UCLA, I am continually being challenged and motivated by my professors to create new ideas and defend those ideas.

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

I think I would have a strawberry protein shake with egg whites, bacon, and pancakes.

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

I would be a professional mixed martial arts fighter. I was training and competing in various martial arts (combat sports) in the year 2010. I chose to pursue academic excellence instead.


Anna-Michelle Marie McSorleyAnna-Michelle Marie McSorley
Community Health Sciences
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My research interests are rooted in health promotion and disease prevention through health education, specifically for groups experiencing health inequities. In my previous work, I have participated in the development and implementation of health interventions that address modifiable characteristics associated with patient health outcomes, in an effort to improve health for minority and underserved groups.

Brief Biography

I began my academic career at San Diego City Community College and transferred to San Diego State University (SDSU), where I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology. As a first-generation bicultural college student, I knew nothing about research or academia; however, as my exposure to these areas increased, I developed an interest in working within an academic setting and pursuing a graduate degree.

As a minority-serving institution, SDSU has a large number of opportunities available for students like me, and I was fortunate to receive support from the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development Fellowship, funded by the National Institutes of Health. This fellowship funded my Research Assistantships within the Community Outreach Research Team at the Rebecca and John Moores University of California, San Diego Cancer Center and the San Diego State University Chronic Illness Laboratory. As a result, I was able to contribute to research projects aimed at increasing clinical trial participation among minority populations, collaborate on a peer-reviewed publication, and develop numerous conference abstracts and presentations.

I was also selected as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and had the honor of speaking at my commencement ceremony as the recipient of the 2012 Outstanding Student in Psychology Award. Soon after graduation, I joined the Cancer Prevention Research Center at the University of Rhode Island and collaborated on research projects aimed at increasing blood donation in African-American communities. Additionally, I participated in the development of computer-adaptive educational programs incorporating behavior change theory and motivational interviewing techniques to deliver health education and promote engagement in healthy behaviors. In 2013, I joined the UCLA Transplant Research and Education Center as a Program Manager and coordinated all activities for a randomized control trail, funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, aimed at improving knowledge about kidney transplantation treatment options for low-income African-American and White dialysis patients.

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

I can’t imagine a better meal than my mother’s lasagna. Yes, my mother is Puerto Rican, but she makes the most amazing Italian food.

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

As a native New Yorker, I love Broadway. In fact, I attended a performing arts high school and had big dreams of one day singing on- or off-Broadway. In another life, I might find myself singing my heart out on a stage somewhere.


Erica OntiverosErica Ontiveros
Social Welfare
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

I am primarily interested in the intersection between policy and social-welfare issues facing juvenile-justice, family, and children systems. I am interested in research with dual-involved youth and their families.

Brief Biography

I was born in Santa Ana, CA, and raised in Orange County. I went to three different high schools, and despite many life obstacles I was able to stay focused enough to apply to and get into college. I graduated from California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), in the Spring of 2016 with a major in Human Services and a minor in Criminal Justice. I was a part of the Guardian Scholars Program at CSUF and helped organize a Foster Youth Awareness Month Event for the Community to spread awareness about foster care and the experiences of foster youth.

Throughout my undergraduate education, as a foster-care alum and an advocate of the child-welfare system, I gained a greater understanding of where change needs to occur to increase positive outcomes for individuals. Last summer I had the opportunity to intern at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Foster Youth Internship in Washington, DC, where I conducted research on the dual-involved youth who are part of both the criminal-justice and foster-care systems. My research allowed me to work with legislators of the US Congress as well as the White House Domestic Policy Council. At the culmination of my research, I presented policy recommendations to help foment change through a collaboration between the child-welfare and juvenile-justice systems for the youth who have involvement in both systems. My experience and education have influenced my desire to advocate for changes to social policy that are grounded on social-justice ideals. Today, I continue to advocate for systemic changes that will improve the systems for youth on both a local and national level by being a voice for the underrepresented in my community.

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

I love Thai food and boba; I could eat that everyday!

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

I would most likely be in the Peace Corps, doing my service in the region of South America or Africa.


Christian PortilloChristian Portillo
Social Welfare
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My academic interests focus on mental health, emotional well-being, male development, and help-seeking behavior among communities of color. I am interested in how masculinity influences interpersonal relationships, mental health outcomes, and how men ask for and receive mental-health assistance. I want to specialize in counseling men and Spanish-speaking populations while exploring issues such as gender identity, acculturation, immigration, value systems, and emotions.

Brief Biography

I was born and raised in a Salvadoran family in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  Prior to UCLA, I lived in Fukui, Japan, for two years and worked for the Fukui Board of Education as an Assistant Language Teacher. Once I moved back to Los Angeles, I was accepted to the Jump Start Fellowship Program under Mental Health America of Los Angeles (MHALA) and received my recovery-based training at MHA Village in Long Beach, CA. This mental health fellowship trained me on the recovery-oriented model and recovery-based mental health services. My experiences in Japan and at the MHA Village helped solidify my career interest in a helping profession. These opportunities pushed me to better understand myself, trust my journey, and gain experience working effectively with diverse populations. My current professional goal is to become a licensed clinical social worker aimed at working with boys and young men of color who face a variety of societal pressures and institutional inequities. To help boys and young men of color, I would assist them in navigating different educational and social service systems. I seek to strengthen their life and professional skills as they transition into adulthood and their careers.

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

Pupusas all day!

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

I would probably continue teaching abroad and travel across Asia, Europe, and South America.


Rick ReyesRick Reyes
Law
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My academic interests have mainly revolved around legal theory, particularly international legal theory. I have always been interested in political Islam and the role Shari’ah law plays in Muslim-majority countries. However, I am also very interested in transactional law, such as Mergers & Acquisitions and Tax Law.

Brief Biography

I transferred from Ventura College, a community college. Upon my arrival at UCLA, I focused most of my efforts and research as an undergraduate towards international legal theory, with an emphasis on countries in the Middle East. It all culminated in the publishing of a research paper in the Political Science Student Organization Journal. There, I discussed the role Islamic law plays in Oma, Yemen, and Malaysia. As a law student, I have now transitioned towards more concrete aspects of the law, with an interest in business and corporate law, as well as tax law. I currently am a member of La Raza at the Law School.

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 have to say a spinach, quinoa, sun dried tomatoes, and avocado salad.

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

I would be enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, or something related with the fashion industry.


Brannon Rockwell-CharlandBrannon Rockwell-Charland
Art
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

I’m focused on conceptual art, Womanism, Afro-Celtic legend & folk music, biomythography, memory.

Brief Biography

I’m a multimedia artist and musician originally from Berkeley, CA, raised in the midwest and now based in Los Angeles. My scholarship and artwork operate within a womanist framework and deal with critical race theory and queer theory, focusing on visual/textual intersections of Black femmehood, memory, autobiography and mythology. I also play folk music and am currently working on an electronic music project.

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

It would definitely be Ethiopian food.

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

If I had not pursued my MFA, I would have pursued music—and I still hope to.


Alejandra Rodriguez-VeraAlejandra Rodriguez-Vera
Civil & Environmental Engineering
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My interest lies in the treatment of wastewater as well as drinking water. After completing my master’s, I would like to obtain a job at any of the wastewater treatment plants in the Greater Los Angeles area. My ultimate goal is to be in a position where I could work for a non-profit organization that helps communities have access to potable water.

Brief Biography

I transferred to UCLA from a community college as a Biology major. As I started exploring various clubs, I came across the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), through which I learned about environmental engineering. I became a project director for ASCE’s Environmental Design team, and this experience helped me realize that I wanted to pursue a career in this field. Thus, I decided to obtain a master’s degree in environmental engineering to learn more about the concepts I had explored during my undergraduate career. Now that I have completed my first quarter as a graduate student, I have become even more fascinated with the current methods for wastewater treatment. However, I have also grown more intrigued by how much is still unknown about how these processes could be improved by alternate methods, such as the use of generically modified microbes or nanomaterials.

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

Sushi

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

My original plan with a degree in Biology was to apply to medical school and become a plastic surgeon. Had I not discovered environmental engineering during my undergraduate years, I would be studying for the MCAT and working on medical school applications right now.


Ulato SamUlato Sam
Theater, Film & TV
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My plan while in graduate school is to immerse myself in my community and its teachings while bringing the incomprehensibly unique elements of my personality and culture to the campus life and department. My hope is to gain the necessary tools of an MFA to conceptualize and implement real change in the Caribbean, in the hopes of educating and inspiring another generation of Jamaican and Caribbean youth.  I want to help each to find his or her way to tertiary-level education through the arts.

Brief Biography

I am a native of the melting pot of the Caribbean, Jamaica.  Growing up in New Kingston, I was exposed to some of the most vibrant aspects of the Jamaican culture, which still show themselves in my everyday life.  After a very promising academic and track & field career at Ardenne High School, I attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, where I was an Academic, Oprah Winfrey and Track & Field Scholar.  At Morehouse, I delved into the arts, and while serving as Mr. Spelman College (Mr. Blue & White), implemented my platform “Spelman Island Style,” empowereing my Spelman Sisters by exposing them to aspects of Afro-Caribbean Culture that they hadn’t previously seen on the campus.

After graduating from Morehouse, I went on to work as a producer and on-air reporter for “ListenMi News,” a primetime news program shared across Jamaica and the Caribbean geared at making the news more vivid and compelling for the youth.  Each week I, and a team of international and local recording artists, turned the news into a music video pushing what they called “Edu-tainment” to the forefront of the Jamaican media.

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

It would have to be lobster.  Whether it’s a grilled lobster tail, a lobster patty, or lobster mac & cheese, you can’t go wrong.

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

I’d be using my talents to inspire people.  I have always put myself in spaces where I can be an actor/dancer, while also educating those around me. So I would honestly say I would be working in a creative content media house, such as ListenMi Caribbean or BuzzFeed, where I could create, produce, and participate in work that makes a difference while also entertains.


Chris SanchezChris Sanchez
Education
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

I am pursuing a Master’s of Education in Student Affairs to become a better educator and student affairs officer. Upon graduation I want to continue my commitment and advocacy for first-generation and underrepresented students in higher education to successfully achieve their academic goals. My focus is working with students from low socioeconomic status, students of color, young migrants, LGBTQ students, student veterans, and transfer students.

Brief Biography

I was born and raised in Mexico. After my mother passed away and my father remarried, I migrated to Santa Ana, CA, at the age of 15 to reunite with my siblings, who had migrated years before. I attended and graduated from high school and went on to community college. As a first-generation college student and young migrant, I was not well-informed of my possibilities in education. However, my involvement in student government and student services opened up doors and opportunities I had never imagined. Being the first to attend college was a challenge but a blessing at the same time. I conducted independent research and found my career passion. I discovered student affairs and the many ways I could serve students like myself. Upon graduation I worked at UCSC as a program coordinator and advisor at the Career Center, Politics Department, and at Services for Transfer and Re-entry Students (STARS), working with freshmen, transfers, student veterans, foster youth, and undocumented students. It was such a gratifying experience that I decided to attend graduate school to better prepare myself and continue serving college students. I am currently a graduate intern at the Bruin Resource Center, working with student veterans and transfer students. I want to make a positive impact in students’ retention and success by providing resources and a safe space for students struggling to navigate the higher education system.

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 tacos and agua de horchata!

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

I would probably be working at my previous position as program coordinator and advisor at STARS, working with transfer students, student veterans, and foster youth.


Nathan SerafinNathan Serafin
Asian American Studies
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My area of concentration is in Transportation Policy and Planning, and I aim to map out the sustainable pathways of a city while addressing environmental justice and social inequity. I first entered my college career focusing on general “sustainability,” but had little idea of what that meant for people of color and marginalized communities. After internalizing these issues, it became clear to me that creating a healthier city means initiating change from these perspectives.

Brief Biography

After having a difficult time during high school finding a specific career goal, I discovered that my passions lie in creating sustainable communities. With this in mind, I attended Cerritos College while working as an on-campus writing tutor. I eventually transferred to UC Berkeley, where I carried over my environmental goals and was immersed in a student body that challenged my assumptions and consolidated my worldview. I eventually co-facilitated a student-led course on food justice through the UC Berkeley Public Service Center, which culminated in a service-learning trip throughout the Bay Area, where students worked with sustainable farms and low-income communities.

While I knew I wanted to attend graduate school after attaining my bachelor’s degree, I decided to focus on building up my professional experience before applying. During this period, I interned for Congressman Alan Lowenthal for his involvement in the House Committee on Natural Resources and also interned for the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach, where I wrote articles to help the Center educate the public about local wildlife and climate change. In the year leading up to my graduate career at UCLA, I was teaching elementary school students about engineering, storytelling, and urban planning concepts while using LEGOs as a learning tool. I hope to use my background during my graduate studies to help develop our university into a leader in solving environmental justice problems, and I couldn’t be more thankful for being given the opportunity to do so.

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

Gumbo with a side salad of baby greens and a roll of garlic bread. Gumbo is always made a bit differently!

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

Likely working for an environmental nonprofit


Raubern TotanesRaubern Totanes
Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

I have a strong interest in the development and testing of aerospace structures.  I enjoy learning about what it takes to send heavy aircrafts/space crafts within and beyond Earth’s atmosphere for travel and exploration purposes.

Brief Biography

I am a first-generation Filipino-American born and raised in New York City.  I completed my undergraduate studies in Physics at the Macaulay Honors College at the City College of New York in 2015 and graduated Magna Cum Laude.  I also completed my degree with Research Honors by conducting research in predicting physical behaviors of C. elegans using neuronal networks and numerical methods.

During my undergraduate years, I served as the President of my school’s Philippine-American Organization, where I helped to strengthen the Filipino presence on the campus and aid in the transition of new students to the collegiate world. I then became the Regional Chairperson for my local Filipino intercollegiate community with the aspiration of offering cultural, social, and professional growth opportunities for my peers.

Thanks to my undergraduate institution, I was given the opportunity to nurture a more open-mind and global aspect of life through medical missions in Panama, learning the Chinese language in China, and observing sociology and nationalism in a financially and socially recovering Greece.  Prior to starting my graduate studies in aerospace engineering, I spent time working on my photography and exploring different countries such as Japan, Philippines, Thailand, and Cambodia.  Traveling to the West Coast for graduate school has thus far proved to be quite the challenge but it’s a welcomed adventure that opens a new pathway for my personal and academic growth.

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

Anything and everything that has cheese. Or just cheese is fine, too (smoked gruyère, to be exact)!

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

Surprisingly, I would probably be working on medical school applications around this time. But in an ideal scenario, I would be traveling the world sampling different foods, immersing myself in various cultures, and expanding my photography portfolio.


Tiffany Wang-Su TranTiffany Wang-Su Tran
Asian American Studies and Social Welfare
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My list of interests is constantly growing because of all the new theories and practices I am learning. At the moment, my interests include Women of Color Feminism, Ethnic Chinese Diasporas, Transnational Cultural Networks, Mental-Health Practices in Communities of Color, Southeast Asian Studies, and Asian Settler Colonialism. I am looking forward to approaching mental-health counseling with an ethnic studies lens.

Brief Biography

After graduating from high school I started my college career at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), as an Economics and Accounting major. I soon realized that I saw myself pursuing a degree in the social sciences, and after much self-reflection I decided to withdraw from UCSB and enroll at my local community college. East Los Angeles College was the setting that first sparked my academic interests in social justice and community organizing. Community college allowed me the chance to really challenge myself academically and to flourish in academic and community settings. Taking my first gender studies and ethnic studies courses in community college showed me that I wanted to dedicate my lifetime to fighting hegemonic, colonial systems of power. Soon after I transferred to UCLA as a Gender Studies major and added on a double major of Asian American Studies during my first year. During my undergraduate career at UCLA I held several positions in various student organizations. I was involved in programs working with Southeast Asian transfer students, community college students at-large, and Asian American and Pacific Islander students at UCLA. After two years at UCLA I built a network of mentors and advisors in academic and student organizing settings, and I eventually graduated Cum Laude with College Honors and Departmental Honors from Asian American Studies.

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

If I have to think about sustainability, it would probably be protein powder. If not, then it would be a giant bowl of pho with meatballs from Pho Filet.

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

Running a full-service dog hotel


Fatima Urquilla SotoFatima Urquilla Soto
Nursing
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

Health and the community surrounding us are my primary motivators and academic interests. I have such a deep care for the Latino community, and I want to provide myself as a small grain in bridging the great health disparities that surround us. I love learning anything and everything about the human body and preventative measures to preserve it. My dream is to one day be a family nurse practitioner and help establish a low-income community health clinic.

Brief Biography

Moving countries as a 10-year-old opened my eyes to new cultures, new languages, and an entire new world. As a small Salvadorian girl, I was very limited and sheltered from the different social structures and barriers that many people in my own community face. Encouraged by my parents, I was the first to graduate from college. Throughout my undergraduate career, I continued to develop my interest in low-income minority communities, as I myself identified as a member. Specifically, being a patient, a volunteer, and an employee at Venice Family Clinic brought many opportunities for me to learn what it really means to serve. My parents’ guidance, along with that of many others, helped me take the step into becoming a nurse. As a nurse, I not only am to provide care, but to be an advocate and a leader. I am so blessed to be part of the Class of 2018 MECN cohort. Time to start this new journey!

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

Bean and cheese pupusas from Olocuilta (El Salvador). They are the most delicious things ever!

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

I would have continued to work in the public health setting at a community clinic doing either clinical work as a medical assistant or more on the administrative side as a coordinator.


Nayeli VelascoNayeli Velasco
Social Welfare
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My academic interest is in the effect of migration and language barriers on Latino immigrants, with a special interest in the Mexican indigenous population whose primary language is Mixtec. I eventually want to work with the Mexican indigenous population in Ventura County.

Brief Biography

I was born and raised in a small rural indigenous town in Oaxaca, México, until I migrated to the United States at the age of 10. I completed three years at Oxnard College and transferred to CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI), where I graduated with a BA in Sociology. During my two years at CSUCI, I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant and conduct my own quantitative research about Latino immigrant occupations in California. I participated in different conferences such as the Pacific Sociological Association (PSA) Conference and SAGE Conference during Spring 2015. After graduation, I started working as a research assistant for the University of California, Davis, and Reiter Affiliated Companies, evaluating a program that targets farm workers. My research experience opened doors for my career. But most importantly it contributed to my desire to pursue graduate education, because it made me realize that although it is of great importance to write about the issues, it is also important to take action. That is why I chose social work, and I am loving every moment of this wonderful journey at UCLA and my internship at Senior Concerns.

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

Gorditas with mole oaxaqueño and orange juice 🙂

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

Working as a research assistant


Veronica VicenasVeronica Vicenas
Health Policy & Management
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My interests include a wide range of topics relating to health, from improving health-care access to community-level health education initiatives.  Most specifically, I am interested in expanding my knowledge in health policymaking and aspire to translate my experience into practice and advance changes. Ultimately, my education will help me develop the tools needed to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, particularly those faced with great disadvantage and systemic inequalities.

Brief Biography

I graduated from UCLA with a major in Anthropology and minors in Chicana/o Studies, Public Policy, and Education. Upon graduating, I joined AmeriCorps at AltaMed Health Services, where I served as an ACA outreach and enrollment coordinator. In this capacity I realized the magnitude of impact the health-care law had on the communities I served, cementing my desire to bring about positive change through policy. From there I worked as a program coordinator for Choose Health LA Kids–AltaMed and had the opportunity to mobilize community members around health education and awareness to reduce childhood obesity. After receiving my degree in public health I intend to have greater impact with the experience I acquire at UCLA.

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

Mole poblano, pozole, and coconut water!

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

If I didn’t pursue a master’s, I would have definitely been involved in some form of community engagement. I love the transfer of knowledge and information and would have most likely done this through a community health clinic.


Danise WebbDanise Webb
Social Welfare
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My academic interests include how neighborhoods impact the educational trajectories of African American students. I want to explore how public schools can better support African American students academically, socially, and emotionally. I am also interested in creating safe spaces on high school and college campuses for foster youth, former foster youth, and orphans.

Brief Biography

During my time at the University of California, Berkeley, I worked with the Black Recruitment and Retention Center (BRRC) and Stiles Hall. BRRC is a student-led organization that focuses on increasing the population of Black students. The Center also provides academic and social events to retain current Black students. At Stiles Hall I was the Director of Berkeley Scholars to Cal (BSC), an eight-year mentorship program that follows students from 5th to 12th grade with the goal of attending college. 100% of our students have attended four-year universities. I also had the opportunity to complete a thesis on why place and neigborhoods matter. My work was encouraged by William Julius Wilson, Robert Sampson, Douglas Massey, and Nancy Denton.

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

Chicken enchiladas

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

Continuing to work as the director of BSC (I miss my students so much!)


Amanda YeagerAmanda Yeager
Civil & Environmental Engineering
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

I plan to work in structural design designing buildings to withstand earthquakes and other dynamic forces. My goal as a structural engineer is to increase the safety of society during such disasters as well as to improve the world’s built environment with innovative and aesthetic designs. I want to have a part in turning ideas into physical realities, creating inspiration for generations to come.

Brief Biography

During my time at Syracuse University, I was highly involved both in and out of my program. I served as secretary for the American Society of Civil Engineers and Chi Epsilon National Civil Engineering Honor Society as well as a mentor in the Engineering Ambassadors Program. My junior year, I interned with the Dubai Contracting Company (DCC) in construction management through a highly competitive, unique internship program offered by SU, Lebanon American University, and the CEO of DCC. I also managed staff as a supervisor for my job as a lifeguard, played flute in the basketball pep band, and danced on the Bhangra team. As part of the Reneé Crown University Honors Program, I was able to balance out STEM classes with humanities and social science courses and civic engagement/volunteering for a well-rounded curriculum albeit a heavier course load. For my Honors Program Capstone, titled “The Role of the Structural Engineer in the Contemporary Design Process,” I explored the nexus of architecture and structural engineering in the industry. I analyzed the form of a competition-winning design for a pedestrian bridge to see whether structural considerations were taken into account, critiqued the process behind the design issues found, and offered alternative design solutions. I argued for early collaboration between architects and engineers, which is not only essential for structurally viable, economical, and constructible designs, but also allows for innovation and creativity in design. Ever since I was little, I have loved to explore buildings, especially houses, and to plan what my future home would be like. This passion for structures is why I have pursued a master’s degree in Structural Engineering. With my degree, I plan to work in structural design for a firm that carries the values of and passion for collaboration and innovation as I do.

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

Stuffed Crust Cheese Pizza—could never get tired of pizza!

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

I would hopefully be working at an engineering firm learning and racking up experience to be able to work in design.  In an idealized situation, I would be travelling and adventuring around the world.


Estefania ZavalaEstefania Zavala
Public Policy
Year Entered Graduate School: 2016-2017

Academic Interests

My policy interests revolve around the immigrant communities in Los Angeles; specifically, I am interested in the intersection of transportation and labor with regards to the immigrant community. I have seen the impact that policy changes have at the local level, and I am interested in working in local government to serve the public and better the lives of Southern California residents.

Brief Biography

I am a first-generation college student and the daughter of working-class immigrants. After completing my undergraduate degree in English and Public Policy at UC Riverside, I worked labor relations as a Contract Administrator, where I assisted in the negotiation of over five Collective Bargaining Agreements for the Southern California union construction industry. This direct involvement with public policy sparked curiosity in me about the immigrants who were often working on these publicly funded construction projects, about the benefits of the union industry, and about the projects themselves which were often Metro projects that were changing the infrastructure of Southern California.

My interest in workplace rights and immigration also stems from watching my father, a Mexican gardener, face clients who refused to pay him, knowing that his lack of education and poor English skills made him vulnerable. Since I was a child, I have been the primary advocate, negotiator, and communicator on behalf of my family. I hope to do this on a larger scale in local government through effective and beneficial public policy.

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

I strongly believe that I am the most powerful after I eat a breakfast burrito. This would be great fuel to figure out how to get off the island!

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

I would be in journalism or another form of writing. Investigating and communicating injustices to the public in the form of journalism or novels are often a great way to propel policy change.