2018-2019 Mentorship Participants


annbrowningbenreadmerrill-mentorship-2018-2019.jpgH. Ann Browning:
Ann is a 4th year undergraduate student studying to earn a Bachelor’s in Politics and Feminist Studies. Ann grew up in Cleveland until they moved to San Diego, where they attended high school. Her research interests include East Asian politics, women in politics, reproductive labor and environmental contaminants.  She is also very invested in learning the Japanese language. Currently, they are excited to learn more about women in politics internationally and learn more about local politics. Her long-term goals include pursuing a career in International Relations, improving her Japanese fluency and going to graduate school.

Merrill Fellow Ben Read:
Benjamin L. Read is an Associate Professor of Politics at UC Santa Cruz whose work explores local politics in China and Taiwan. His book, Roots of the State: Neighborhood Organization and Social Networks in Beijing and Taipei (Stanford University Press, 2012) used surveys, interviews, and participant observation to compare the ways in which constituents perceive and interact with the urban administrative structures found in China, Taiwan, and elsewhere in the region. With Diana Kapiszewski and Lauren Morris MacLean, he is coauthor of Field Research in Political Science: Practices and Principles (Cambridge University Press, 2015). His articles have appeared in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, Comparative Political Studies, the China Journal, the China Quarterly, and the Washington Quarterly, among other journals, and several edited books. 
Project Description:
Ann will research the academic literature on city politics and specifically city councils. She will help identify and understand current work in this area by searching through the literature and writing up notes on it in an annotated bibliography.
Merrill Fellow Rebecca Covarrubias:
Dr. Covarrubias is sponsoring three different students for three different projects.  
Dr. Rebecca Covarrubias is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Faculty Director of the Student Success Equity Research Center at UC Santa Cruz. As a social and cultural psychologist, she examines the importance of reflecting the cultural strengths and practices of students from diverse backgrounds in educational settings as a way to foster inclusion and equity. With her team of student researchers in the Culture and Achievement Collaborative, she works to translate these findings into actionable practices that can shift the culture of institutions and can help students thrive. 

Felix Jimenez:
Feliz is a first generation college student and indigenous Guatemalan Mayan. he is a fourth year majoring in psychology, his emphasis is on "culture development". His understanding of culture was greatly shaped by Baraba Rogoff who emphasized that culture is continually developing. Additionally, he is a research assistant in Dr. Rebecca Covarrubias Culture and Achievement Collaborative Lab. As of today he wants to thank everyone who has helped and challenged him to understand many things. 

Project Description:
In collaboration with the Student Success Equity Research Center (SSERC), we have launched a project that examines the different factors that contribute to differing retention rates in engineering and the ways UC Santa Cruz can eliminate them. As part of this project, Felix will participate in focus groups interviews, as a note-taker and co-facilitator, with historically-underrepresented students in STEM. He will then transcribe and code focus group data. While helping with data collection and preparation, Felix will also conduce a literature review to help inform our knowledge base about this project. This study contributes to the body of research on the challenges facing historically-underrepresented students in STEM fields, and will give insight into how we can address these challenges at UCSC. 
Janely Cardenas Vargas:JanelyCardenasandCovarrubias
Janely is a third-year undergraduate student double majoring in Psychology and Latinx Studies. Janely, as a child of Mexican Immigrant parents, is the first in her family to attend college. As a future PhD candidate, Janely intends to merge the disciplines of Psychology and Latin American/Latinx Studies in order to produce academic literature that simultaneously includes conversations about identity, society, culture, and well-being while converting dialogue into social action. Janely, in her scholarly endeavors, attempts to conduce critical research that not only collects data, but also provides aid and support to the participant's well-being and overall mental health. 

Project Description:
In educational settings, deficit thinking suggests that student failure is a matter of individual initiative, placing the onus of responsibility on the student and failing to consider structural factors that can impede performance (Valencia, 1997). There is scarce work documenting how educators endorse these forms of deficit thinking in both STEM and university settings. In collaboration with Learning Support Services, Janely will help with a project that seeks to understand the attributions that educators (e.g., undergraduate tutors) make for struggle and failure. Janely will code open-ended responses to explore tutors’ attributions for struggle. She will also analyze close-ended measures designed to assess tutors’ beliefs about student ability, their own ability, and whether or not they feel like they can support the student. This study serves as a preliminary step to uncover educators’ perspectives of students in STEM contexts and to eventually inform interventions on how to shift from deficit to anti-deficit thinking among educators.

Janely was awarded the opportunity to present her research at the 2019 SACNAS Conference held in Hawaii.

Rebeca Najarro: is a 4th year undergraduate student studying Psychology and Sociology. She has always been
interested in investigating how the anti-immigrant climate has impacted resources, retention, and feelings of belonging for undocumented students in higher education. Since her first year, Rebeca has researched various aspects of this question throughout her involvement in research programs, labs, and seminars. As a first-generation Central American immigrant, Rebeca feels strongly and passionately about activism that uplifts marginalized communities. Research is one of the many forms of activism in which she believes that we can come together and push for social change. With love and commitment to her community, Rebeca aspires to become a school social worker that serves students from under-resourced schools in downtown Los Angeles. She hopes to live the rest of her life helping underrepresented communities overcome any and all barriers they encounter. In her free time, she really enjoys listening to music and going to concerts as a form of self-care. Some of her favorite artists are Frank Ocean, Duckwrth, Smino, Goldlink, and Masego

Rebeca’s project description:
The UCSC Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Initiatives aim to cultivate a sense of belonging and a pathway for success for students from diverse backgrounds, with a particular focus on Latinx students. One critical HSI initiative is the Regional Family Conference, a free, half-day conference that provides workshops and programming on the college transition experience for Latinx first-generation college students and their families. In collaboration with HSI, we will evaluate the effects of this conference using open-ended responses and interviews from students and families. Rebeca will be focusing on analyzing and coding these qualitative data. Currently, Rebeca has played a critical role in transcribing interviews and in beginning to develop a codebook of themes. Throughout this year, she will continue to attend focus groups with students and transcribe interviews. Rebeca will also be instrumental in entering, preparing and cleaning quantitative survey data from students and families. The overall goal of this work is to assess how the conference helps facilitates the cultural transition to college for Latinx first-generation students and their families. Rebeca’s efforts on this project will support the goals of our research lab and the larger work with HSI.


Sonia Arzola: 
Sonial Arzola is a transfer student. She is from Tijuana, Mexico but now resides in San Diego when not in Santa Cruz. She is double majoring in Sociology and Spanish Studies with linguistics emphasis. She is a Merrill Affilate who applied to the Merrill  Undergraduate Research Mentorship program because she wanted to get more involved with her Spanish professor who has been her role model to follow. Also to have the opportunity to learn more about Spanish syntax and morphology since these topics have been of great interest to Arzola. Besides, working together with her mentor she hope it'll help her to strengthen her language with academic knowledge which will help her with the pursuit of her master's and doctorate.

Merrill Fellow Maria Victoria Gonzalez Pagani:
María Victoria González Pagani has been a faculty member at UCSC since 1992. She previously taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She is a Merrill fellow and a member of the Languages and Applied Linguistics Department, and presently directs the Spanish Studies major. She specializes in content-based language instruction and the incorporation of new technologies to language teaching. She is the co-author of Tradición y cambio: Perspectivas sobre la cultura latinoamericana (McGraw-Hill 2005),  Al corriente (McGraw-Hill 2004), Spanish without Walls (hybrid online first year Spanish course), and the author of Donde quiera, cuando quiera (Distance learning AP Spanish Language course) among other online courses. She teaches in the Spanish for Heritage Speakers Program, which she also directs, and courses at the upper division level in the Spanish major such as Introduction to Hispanic Linguistics, and Humor in the Spanish Speaking World, on which topic she is writing a textbook.

Project Description:
As part of a larger project, Sonia will be researching different approaches to topics of her interest in Spanish syntax and morphology which present challenges to teaching. She will learn how to turn the theory into clear pedagogical explanations. In addition, she will collect samples that illustrate actual language use related to these topics. Together we will prepare a battery of pedagogical materials that will be very useful for the students in the Spanish Studies major.


bertramandgenevaGeneva Monteleone: 
Geneva Monteleone is a fourth year student double majoring in Politics and Psychology. She has a longstanding interest in the American political system and the ways that the fields of comparative politics and psychology can be used to inform American public policy. Geneva explored these interests by interning as a Robert T. Matsui Congressional Fellow for Senator Dianne Feinstein in Washington D.C., and then in Senator Feinstein’s field office in Los Angeles. She also recently returned from studying abroad, where she studied political science in France and England, and conducted research in her capacity as an intern for a London consulting company.

Merrill Fellow Eva Bertram:
Eva Bertram is an Associate Professor in the Politics Department at UCSC.  She studies American politics, public policy, and political economy.  Her areas of research focus include economic inequality, poverty, and social policy.  Her published works include two books:  The Workfare State: Public Assistance Politics from the New Deal to the New Democrats, and Drug War Politics: The Price of Denial.  She serves on the Board of Directors of the Community Action Board for Santa Cruz County, and on the Advisory Board of the UCSC Blum Center on Poverty, Social Enterprise, and Participatory Governance.  Before joining the UCSC faculty, she worked for more than ten years in Washington, D.C. in the nonprofit sector and for a congressional committee.  She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University, and her B.A. from Swarthmore College.

Project Summary:
Geneva and Professor Bertram will work together on two parallel lines of Professor Bertram’s research on poverty, inequality, and work in the United States.  The first examines the causes and consequences of the rise of contingent and non-standard work in the context of growing economic inequality.  The project seeks to historicize and politicize these trends, by examining contingency and precarity not simply as the outcome of market forces, but as politically contested and facilitated by state actors and institutions, who over time have determined the regulatory and legal contexts that govern work.  Geneva’s interest in this subject grows in part from her experience in studying zero-hour contracts and related issues in the United Kingdom.  The second project examines poverty in Santa Cruz County, and the strategy of the county’s community action agency to assess and address it.  Of particular interest is the agency’s attempt in 2017-18 to create a community-engaged needs assessment process for the county, and an equity-based lens for developing policies and programs to confront local poverty and inequality.


Stephanie Perez: Stephanie Perez is a 4th year Legal Studies major, also minoring in History. She plans to attend law school after graduation. Her interests include the history and development of U.S. law and how it has been influenced and shaped by society. Her current senior capstone project focuses on constitutional law and examines the legal consciousness of ordinary citizens in relation to first amendment protections, specifically the establishment and free exercise clauses. Recently, she has begun to explore how U.S. law influenced or interacted with legal frameworks and societies outside of the U.S. Her mentorship with Professor O’Hara and work related to this project will help her explore these connections.

Merrill Fellow Matt O' Hara: 
Matt O'Hara is a historian of Latin America with a focus on early Mexico, and is currently Chair of the History Department at UCSC. His areas of research interest include colonial political culture, religion, and the history of time, as well as a new project related to bioprospecting in the Amazon. His publications include the books A Flock Divided: Race, Religion and Politics in Mexico (Duke University Press, 2010);  Imperial Subjects: Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America (Duke University Press, 2009) (co-edited with Andrew Fisher); and The History of the Future in Colonial Mexico (Yale University Press, 2018).

Project Summary:
Stephanie Perez and Professor O'Hara will be working through primary sources related to O'Hara's new project on botanical exploration and pharmaceutical research in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon in the middle twentieth century. Stephanie will develop skills related to a large-scale research project: organizing thousands of pages of archival documents, developing a research plan-timeline, reading and contextualizing primary sources, and refining questions. Drawing on her own interests in ethnohistory and legal studies, Stephanie is also working on a research paper related to the topic.


gabriellafoucheandabramsGabriella Fouche: 
Hi there! My name is Gabbie Fouché and I am a third year applied linguistics major. I love learning languages, and over the years I have spent time learning French, Portuguese, and bits of American Sign Language, Italian, and Spanish. As learning about languages and different cultures has always fascinated me, so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to work with Zsuzsanna Abrams on such an amazing project regarding Intercultural Communication. I have been working with Professor Abrams to help her write her more recent book. I aid her by cataloging resources and reasing over the drafted chapterws for clarity and flow. After taking her course on Intercultural Communication back in Fall 2018, I knew that the subject was important to research, and was elated to find that I could play such an impactful role in producing comprehensible learning material to expand the field. 

Merrill Fellow Zsuzsanna Abrams:
Zsuzsanna Abrams is an Associate Professor in the Department of Languages and Applied Lingusitics. She earned her Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching.  Her research and teaching focus on applied linguistics with a special focus on development in German as a foreign language, on writing in a second language, computer-mediated communication and pragmatics. Her research has been published in the Modern Language Journal, Computer Assisted Language Learning, and System among other peer-reviewed journals.

Project Summary: 
The book project that this Merrill scholarship supports focuses on the use of authentic materials to teach intercultural communication in the second/foreign language classroom. The book guides readers (advanced undergraduate and graduate students who want to be language teachers) – and through them, their students – to view intercultural communication as a dynamic process that is dependent on the culturally complex individuals who co-construct interactions. There is special emphasis on recognizing culture as layered experience, whereby we embody an intersection of multiple cultural groups to which we belong. Understanding culture as layers helps us identify which aspects of culture are salient in particular interactions, increases our awareness of and skills to navigate intercultural communication more effectively.

As this book project nears its completion, Gabbie’s contributions are essential in several ways. She is helping me organize references, using the Mendeley application and double-checking resources in Google Scholar. Additionally, she helps proof-read and copy-edit the chapters, making suggestions regarding interesting questions and activities that the book’s target audience might be interested in. As part of the project, Gabbie will also learn how to collect, transcribe and analyze multimodal data from instances of intercultural communication.