Ambassador Alumni

Sofia Martinez - Former UROC Co-Director

Sofia Martinez transferred as a sociology major from Santa Rosa Junior College in the fall of 2014. Since transferring Sofia has been conducting an independent research project through the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program. Her research aims to understand how medical discourse concerning a hormonal condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome perpetuates normative understandings of gender. In the past Sofia has also done research with Dr. Marcin Smietana and Dr. Charis Thompson, on surrogacy within LGBT communities. In her spare time Sofia enjoys spending time with her pets and peer advising at the sociology department. In the future, Sofia hopes to continue her education and continue making the best of her time at UC Berkeley.

Jesús Vásquez-Cipria

    Jesús strives to intersect entrepreneurship/technology, community, culture, and spirit. Grounded by his indigenous Zapoteca culture and spiritual framework, he aims to create innovative projects within the private and public sectors that benefit underserved communities. As a Haas Scholar at UC Berkeley, he investigated and reported on wealth-building, unity-building, and networking strategies within the Latino population. You can read more about him by searching his full name on Linkedin.

    Alexa Aburto - UROC Research Ambassador

    Alexa Aburto is originally from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. Born to hardworking and kind Mexican immigrants, she is a first generation college student. As a junior majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing, she is an advocate for the influential power of self-expression through the written word. Growing up with a special needs brother, she is deeply passionate about inclusion politics, specifically, disability rights, both inside and outside the classroom. As a self-proclaimed and proud Latina feminist, Alexa’s research focuses on the personal and social effects anti-abortion policies have against the female body, both literally and metaphorically. Other research interests include: examining the consumption of alcohol by Latin American men through a medical/biological anthropological lens; disability studies and cultural studies.

    Daniel Felipe Cardozo Pinto
    Daniel was born in Bogota, Colombia and immigrated to the United States at the age of five. In high school, his work tutoring students with attention deficit disorders led him to develop a deep interest in the fundamental workings of the brain. After a summer completing psychology coursework at Stanford, he declared a double major in Psychology and Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley specializing in neurobiology. He has experience in both cognitive neuroscience researching visual working memory using functional brain imaging, and in optogenetics using molecular techniques to characterize neural circuits implicated in animal models of depression and addiction. He is passionate about increasing scientific literacy in the general population and about the inclusion of Latinos and other underrepresented communities in science. If you have questions about finding research opportunities on campus, securing summer funding for your work, or applying to graduate school - or if you are simply interested in psychology, biology, or anything brainy - please get in touch!
    Gladys Cortez

      Gladys is a senior majoring in Cognitive Science and minoring in Education. Before coming to UC Berkeley she received her AA in Social and Behavioral Science from College of Marin. Previously, Gladys has worked in the CITRIS Social Apps Lab as a user research assistant helping develop a social activism platform. Currently, she is working as a Research Assistant in the UC Berkeley Experimental Social Science Laboratory (Xlab).  

      Alex Mabanta

        Alex Mabanta graduated with degrees in political science and rhetoric and a minor in human rights. His research encompassed the politics of religion in India, the rise of body camera technology in the United States, and racial profiling in the city of Berkeley. A Filipino-American, he continues to mentor and cultivate the next generation of underrepresented researchers of color. 

        Peno McLean-Riggs - UROC Research Ambassador

        Peno Mclean-Riggs is a 4th year Spanish Literature and Languages major. Her research interests include community-engaged scholarship around county jails and categories of belonging in modern Latin American literature. She has also researched the language used by the CIA to describe indigenous people in the Guatemalan Civil War. The social-science research, which inspires her, uses the expertise of community members as a crucial part of the research project. She also has a chihuahua named Luna who is the light of her life!

        Kevin Reyes
          Kevin D. Reyes is nonresident fellow at the Human Rights Center (HRC) at UC Berkeley School of Law, recipient of the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. At HRC, he was previously visiting research associate, research assistant on war crimes and sexual violence, and administrative assistant.
          Reyes recently completed a B.A. from Berkeley in American foreign relations history and international political economy. His research interests address the intersection of various fields, including grand strategy, human rights, international law, and security. He is the author of articles published in the Columbia East Asia Review and the Global Societies Journal as well as a forthcoming Institute of Governmental Studies working paper on national security and computer science issues in the 1980s Strategic Defense Initiative. His current research projects explore comparative transitional justice in Latin America; the role of modernization theories in international justice and capacity-building; and (with Waldo E. Martin, Jr.) human rights discourse in the black freedom struggle from the late 1940s to the present.
          After serving as managing editor of Clio’s Scroll (Berkeley’s undergraduate history journal), he now chairs the journal’s advisory board.
          Reyes has been a Washington fellow of the Goldman School of Public Policy’s Center on Civility and Democratic Engagement, where he served in the Americas program at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and authored a report on accountability for enforced disappearance in Mexico. Moreover, Reyes has contributed to work with the International Criminal Court, United Nations, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Colombia Steering Committee, and the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Reyes was a UROC program designer from 2015-16. Connect with him on Twitter (@KevinDReyes) or visit his website (
          Nalya Rodriguez - UROC Co-Founder

            Nalya Rodriguez was an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, where she double majored in Sociology and Ethnic Studies. She was a Haas and Mc Nair Scholar doing research on the intergenerational relationship between the violence during the Salvadoran civil war (1979-1992) and the current political gang wars. Rodriguez is working on developing a theory on the religion of violence based on Durkheim’s theory of religion, to explain the normalization of violence in Salvadoran society through social media. She has been involved in organizing with the Salvadoran communities in the Bay Area and LA for four years and hopes to continue her work in graduate school. Currently she is developing an after school program for newcomer students in East Oakland.

            Nawang Sherpa

              Born in the Himalayan region of Nepal, Nawang is the first generation college student from his family. He enjoys learning new languages and is fluent in Sherpa, Nepali, Hindi, moderately proficient in Spanish and plans on learn Tibetan while at Cal. He transferred from Santa Rosa Junior college in the Fall of 2016 and is majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis on cell and developmental biology.

              Previously he was a research assistant at Buck Institute working on the mTOR pathway and its effect on aging and age related diseases. mTOR is one of the pathway that regulates cap-dependent mRNA translation. Understanding the underlying mechanism of translation and how it regulates gene expression can open new avenues for diagnosing chronic diseases and have greater implications in developing necessary treatments/preventative care. He intends on continuing research on aging and is currently in the process of finding a research opportunity on campus. This semester he has been involved with the UC Berkeley Global Medical Training (GMT). In Spring (2016) he will be joining other students from UC Berkeley to provide clinical care and advocate about public health in rural areas of Panama. He is excited about the program since it is focused on global health and also gives him an opportunity to experience the rich culture and tradition of Panama. Nawang is passionate about the clinical and research aspect of medicine, and in the future, he intends to pursue MD/PhD.

              Rosario Torres

              My name is Rosario Torres. I grew up in a disadvantaged low-income household. My parents were not given a chance at education to be socially mobile. My father has been a day laborer for over twenty-five years and my mother worked cleaning homes for about fifteen years. They worked hard to provide for my sisters and me. I married young and was married for seven years, and suffered domestic violence. Since leaving this abusive relationship, I decided to go back to get my High School Diploma, and subsequently continued my education at community college.  However, it was a trying time as I am a single parent, and have two children. In order to attend full-time, I worked while going to school to pay for books and childcare related expenses.

              Today, I am a UC Berkeley student, and as I stated earlier, I am a single parent to a ten-year-old son and a five-year- old daughter. Therefore, overcoming these and various other obstacles has made me even more proud of my accomplishments, because balancing school, while being a parent hasn't been easy. That is why, I have been very active in my community to help people realize their educational goals, namely, through my internship at the Undocumented Student Program, my former internship at the Student Parent Center at UC Berkeley, as well as my community outreach to high school students at Oakland International High School through the Dreamers Project. These opportunities have allowed me to set an example for young women and undocumented students, who like me, may not have had a mentor to guide them and encourage them to explore and begin to dream of a career.

              Academically, I intend to get my Bachelor's degree in Anthropology and eventually obtain my masters and Doctorate degree as well. I chose this major because becoming an Anthropologist would equip me with strategies that would enable me to use the knowledge garnered to solve tangible human problems. Therefore, as a Anthropology major, I have taken four Archeology courses at UC Berkeley, and through the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship program (URAP), I have been working in the archaeology lab at UC Berkeley under the direction of Professor Kent Lightfoot. More recently, I have also been working in the McCown Lab also known as the Archaeobotany lab overseen by Professor Christine Hastorf.

              Moreover, I recently applied and was accepted into UC Berkeley’s Haas Scholars Program.  This fellowship fully funded my summer undergraduate research at Wilder Ranch State Park in California, and will allow me to publish the culmination of my undergraduate research as a senior honors thesis. I believe the latter will better prepare me to apply to graduate programs after obtaining my Bachelors in Anthropology at UC Berkeley. Ultimately, my longer term goal is to contribute to the level of knowledge that help researchers and descendant communities discuss findings in terms of contemporary concerns that can influence how state and federal agencies work alongside Native American stewards in implementing better landscape management practices in California.

              However, my children are the biggest driving force in my life. As a child being granted permission to be curious, I want to see the world as my children would, through curious eyes, I want to continue to explore our world together. Therefore, I choose to continue on this journey, pursuing my goal of becoming an Anthropologist.


              If you would like to know more about my research here is a link to the description on the Haas Scholars website for current scholars.

              Andrea Valencia

                Andrea Valencia is a senior and is excited about her research in the Senior Honor's Thesis Program within the Sociology department. When not freaking out over the mountains of assignments she has to complete, she enjoys spending time with her friends enjoying the little things. Her research interests include understanding how racial biases are manifested through healthcare and international foreign aid donations within Sub Saharan Africa. 

                Alé Vazquez

                  Alé Vazquez is a transfer student from Cerritos Community College and is majoring in English. He is involved with Latinx Association for Transfers and currently holds an internship at Our Family Coalition. While here, he has participated in the cooperative, poetry, research, and queer communities on campus. He is a current Mellon Mays Fellow which raises diversity in the professoriate and while affiliated he has participated in a research program at University of Chicago as well as a conference at Stanford. He has been mentored by Marcial Gonzalez, Nadia Ellis, and Lynne Gerber. Although he is walking for commencement in Spring 2017, he hopes to study abroad in Brazil to take literature courses, experience a new culture, and practice his Portuguese. After he hopes to move to New York and develop a relationship with the poetry community before getting a PhD in literature. Overall, he is grateful that among the many things he has learned at UC Berkeley, learning how to navigate Google Calendar has been one them.


                  Anthony Williams

                    Anthony J. Williams (he/him/his pronouns) is from Vacaville, CA and currently lives in Oakland, CA. He graduated from UC Berkeley (Summer 2016) as a Mellon Mays Fellow (Sociology major, Theatre & Performance Studies minor) and as the departmental citation award winner in his department. He is a writer, researcher, and budding organizer with an intention to obtain a PhD in Sociology & Africana Studies. In addition to his role as the Editor-in-Chief of the Afrikan Black Coalition, Anthony’s work has been published in The Independent, Boom: A Journal of California, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Journal, East Bay Express, Black Girl Dangerous, Masculinities 101, and more. You can learn more about him, his research, and more at