Research Ambassadors

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.

Istifaa Ahmed - UROC Co-Director (Humanities and Social Science)

Istifaa Ahmed is a Bengali, critical race feminist. She's lived most of her life in LA, with her mom and sister, who also goes to Cal (she's trying very hard not to smother her). They're her two favorite people in the world. Her greatest inspiration is her mother. Istifaa wishes to one day be at least half the fiercely independent, strong and intersectional woman her mother is and has been.

Istifaa double majors in Ethnic Studies and Gender and Women's Studies, and minors in Global Poverty and Practice. Traditionally, she is attached to a legacy that commits sexual violence and erasure against her body. In her research, Istifaa analyzes sexual violence through women of color performance art. She centers the body as a site of political violence and markings that scars us all. Her research focuses on the flesh as a site of political violence indicative of the sociopolitical conditions that permit the literal, intimate markings and brandings on targeted bodies. In pursuit of sharpening her internal and external identities, Istifaa strongly engages in issues of art, academia and sexual exploitation, all of which she was subject, actor and agent. 

Feel free to reach out to Istifaa as a resource! She's happy to get to know you, help develop your research interests or proposals and methodologies, integrate modes of decolonization into your research, apply for research programs and grants, and help find/create platforms to apply and share your research. She can meet individually and offer group workshops.

Anthony Carrasco - UROC Research Ambassador

The first in his family to attend college, Anthony will soon complete two Bachelor’s degrees; one in Political Science and another in Legal Studies, as well as a minor degree in Public Policy. As a McNair Scholar, Anthony used in-depth semi-structured interviews to investigate the lives of Homeless Students of Color in Orange County, California. Using a Critical Race Theory framework and qualitative data, his study is the first of its kind to use microaggressions as a tool to explore the racialized experiences of Homeless Students of Color in elementary, middle, and high school. Anthony’s own story involves a very personal connection to the issue of how Homeless Youth of Color struggle to access education, since as a child of an extremely economically disadvantaged Mexican American family, Anthony grew up a Southern California “motel kid” for the first 10 years of his life. His project hopes to shine a light on the lives of children who grow up without stable housing by exploring their experiences, their struggles, and their stories. As a scholar activist, Anthony wants to continue researching and advocating for homeless and housing insecure families. His academic interests include sociology of the family, housing and neighborhoods, poverty and inequality, race and ethnicity, qualitative methods, and social policy. In addition to presenting at the McNair Research Symposium in July of 2017, Anthony will be discussing his findings at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education Annual Research Day in March of 2018. Anthony’s article, A Home in the Margins: Using Critical Race Theory to Understand How Racial Microagressions Impact Homeless Students of Color is currently in the process of being featured in the 26th volume of the Berkeley McNair Research Journal. 

Please reach out to Anthony if you would ever like to discuss qualitative research methods, Critical Race Theory, the research process more generally, or anything else for that matter!

Hoa Luong - UROC Research Ambassador

Hoa Luong transferred to UC Berkeley after graduating from Berkeley City College with high honor in 2015. Originally, Hoa came from Vietnam where she had been working as a middle school teacher for more than 20 years.

Hoa double majors in linguistics and psychology. She pursues her research in exploring the essential functions of language in evolution generally and in human development particularly.

Hoa won Sawyer Scholarship for Applied Linguistics in Summer 2017. Her research project briefly outlines some basic characteristics of Vietnamese noun phrase that serve as laying out the two significant differences between the noun phrases in Vietnamese and English that challenges English speakers in learning Vietnamese and Vietnamese speakers in learning English. The research focuses on providing descriptive facts that in the Vietnamese language, classifiers function as prenominal modifiers whereas adjective phrases, possessive phrases, and demonstrative function as post-nominal modifiers.

Shelby Mack - UROC Research Ambassador

Shelby Mack is a senior at UC Berkeley studying American Studies with a concentration in African American Studies and Education. Shelby is a part of the Haas Scholar's Research Program and an undergraduate recipient for the Center for Race and Gender Studies. She recently presented her research findings at the Haas Research Symposium in January of 2018. Her research question is based on understanding the different phases of the first Black female enrichment program of Oakland Unified School District named African American Female Excellence Program (AAFE) and how AAFE workers are using different healing methods (i.e. healing circles, restorative justice, spirituality) as a way to heal Black girls from dehumanizing school practices. The final report of her research project will be submitted as an honors thesis to the Department of American Studies at U.C. Berkeley 2018. The reason why Shelby chose this research topic is because she has been systematically targeted and impacted by zero tolerance policy practices and wants to find alternative solutions to solving the school to prison pipeline epidemic among Black girls.

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!

Saraí Santamaría - UROC Research Ambassador

Saraí J. Santamaría is from Santa Ana, California. They research meaning-making in speech communities of color. Saraí loves witnessing the lingüistic, social, and cultural depth that speech communities of color wield while using language. It’s an honor to participate in the legacies of people of color using their voices and their word to create spaces of power. Saraí speaks Santa Ana Spanglish, Santa Ana English, Academic English (non-native), and California Working Class Spanish.

Saraí is invested in helping others cultivate and realize their own power through planning, envisioning, and connecting with others.

“Awareness of our situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come before changes in society. Nothing happens in the "real" world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.” --Gloria Anzaldúa,“La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Toward a New Consciousness”