2021 Mellon Scholars - University of Houston
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The Mellon Scholars are undergraduate students with a commitment to pursuing careers in the humanities. This two-year program provides these flourishing scholars with opportunities to conduct original research in their discipline, better preparing them for their future graduate studies. Meet our 2021 Mellon Scholars cohort.
  • Ashlíta Acuña-Mena

    Ashlíta Acuña-Mena

    Major: Psychology Major and Liberal Studies Major (Biology, MedSoc, and Anthropology)
    Project: Medical Anthropology, Health Inequity
    Mentor: Guillermo De Los Reyes

    Ashlí is a second-generation immigrant originally from Costa Rica, but born in California. She is passionate about promoting cultural competency in medicine and improving health outcomes for black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Her research interests lie in understanding the barriers that make access to quality healthcare difficult for marginalized Latinx communities, which in turn perpetuate health disparities. Through the Mellon program, she aims to refine her understanding of what inequity in queer Latinx well-being looks like and gain a deeper socioemotional perception of how the individuals of the LGBTQ+ community experience the impact of these challenges. Over the summer, she would like to develop her methodology to conduct bilingual ethnographic research in local LGBTQ+ spaces during the Fall as a part of her Senior Honors Thesis.

  • Alejandro Aguilar

    Alejandro Aguilar

    Major: English Literature
    Minor: Teaching
    Project: Education disparity
    Mentor: Maria C. Gonzalez

    Alejandro Aguilar is majoring in English literature with an education minor. For his research over the summer, he is interested in studying education disparity in BIPOC communities and how these disparities have been portrayed through poems, books, and other forms of literature. When he completes the Mellon Research Scholars program, he plans to wrap up his undergraduate degree and will hopefully be attending graduate school at the University of California Los Angeles. He hopes to become an English professor one day, but would also like to spend a few years teaching in secondary schools to help students reach their full potential and recognize the importance of education.

  • Carla Bullock

    Carla Bullock

    Major: Psychology and Philosophy
    Minor: LGBTQ+ Studies
    Project: Queer Theory, Feminist Theory, Political Philosophy
    Mentor: Johanna Luttrell

    Queer theory is Carla's biggest passion in life. Her personal euphoria is a true and deep understanding of gender, sexuality, and identity. She is currently minoring in LGBTQ+ Studies and plans for her certification. Following this program, she would like to combine both her majors and minor, exploring the philosophy of queerness. In a field dominated by cis white men, she feels the world needs the lens of queer philosophers.

  • Citlali Chavana

    Citlali Chavana

    Major: Communication Sciences and Disorders
    Minor: Sociology
    Project: Health and education disparities
    Mentor: Kathryn Freeman Anderson

    Growing up in the Greenspoint area of Houston, Citlali understood from a young age that for some reason, Black and Brown communities work very hard to barely get by. Citlali first started her academic career at Lone Star College North Harris. With time she learned that she wanted to be a speech-language pathologist, but after taking an intro to sociology course, she realized that sociology is her passion. When she transferred to the University of Houston, she was lucky to participate in an undergraduate research assistantship in the College of Education. Having experience with educational research and wanting to go into the health field, Citlali's research will be over educational disparities and health inequalities in Black and Brown communities through the sociological perspective. She hopes that her research will influence law and policy makers to better serve these neglected populations.

  • Joshua Cornelius

    Joshua Cornelius

    Major: English
    Minor: Education
    Project: Multi-Modal Writing, First-Year Writing, Writing Pedagogy, Student Empowerment, Student Success 
    Mentor: Mark Sursavage

    Growing up, Josh always loved storytelling in every form. Whether it was a video-game, a film, a book, or a song, he had a deep appreciation for all forms of writing! During his work as a tutor in community college he witnessed first-hand how students can become disenfranchised from readings they do not relate to; this fueled his belief that writing in all forms should be respected in the College setting. His long standing passion for storytelling now has a distinct purpose in his plan to teach at a first-year or community college level, so his current broad intention for the Mellon program is to conduct research on the impacts of assigning multi-modal reading and writing assignments in first-year English courses. He is specifically interested in the effects that multi-modal writing has on students from many different backgrounds in regards to their success, empowerment, and engagement with the material.

  • Laura Delgado-Guzman

    Laura Delgado-Guzman

    Major: Spanish and Psychology
    Project: New feminist wave in Latin America
    Mentor: Mabel Cuesta

    Laura is interested in researching the new wave of feminism that is occurring in Latin America in response to the rise in gender violence and the ultimate expression of it, feminicidios. With Dr. Mabel Cuesta, Laura will analyze different forms of art (literature, film, dance, poetry, etc) that women are utilizing to promote awareness and to create a much needed change in the Latin American “machista” culture.

  • Ariel Durham

    Ariel Durham

    Major: History
    Minor: Phronesis
    Project:
    Education inequalities, Civil Rights, Civic Virtue
    Mentor: Terry Hallmark

    Ariel decided to become a history major because she is interested in people and the stories they have to tell. The world is so vast and we all have different perceptions of the past, present, and future. With the Mellon Research Program, she is interested in trying to make sense of America's civic virtue, if we have a single version, through some early documents in America's founding to now. One of her favorite periods in history is America's founding because of the types of conversations that were being had, but also in regard to how America sees itself now.

  • Queen Epomba

    Queen Epomba

    Major: Public Health and Chinese Studies
    Project: Anthropology, Language, and Culture
    Mentor: Melody Li

    Queen Epomba is a rising senior here at UH. Her majors are Public Health and Chinese Studies. She hopes to explore virtual entertainment and its culture, especially during COVID. After Mellon, she is preparing to attend graduate school.

  • Susette Flores

    Susette Flores

    Major: English Literature
    Minor: Women Studies
    Project: Feminist Theory in American Contemporary and Modernist Poetry
    Mentor: Lauren Brozovich

    Susette spent years exploring different fields in search of what she is most passionate about; this journey has led her to the doorsteps of the Science building where her English literature courses once resided. The process of deciphering a poem and discovering the microscopic threads that have been intertwined by poets has been the most fulfilling part of her academic career. She plans to research American contemporary and modernist poetry examining the rise of feminism and queerness in Elizabeth Bishop’s collection during the twentieth century. She will include the masterwork of Simone de Beauvoir and her second-wave feminism philosophy to weave out the implicit trails of feminism that Elizabeth Bishop left behind and how they are marginalized using this lens. She would like to improve the field of literary criticism by incorporating different theories and creating an expanded analysis of poetry that has been largely reduced by many critics.

  • Allie Funk

    Allie Funk

    Major: Theatre with a concentration in Playwriting and Dramaturgy
    Minor: Creative Work
    Project: Media representations of disability
    Mentor: Laurie Lambeth

    Despite loving theater from a young age, Allie didn't consider pursuing a theater career until her junior year of high school. After repeatedly being told that she would never make it as an actress because there are no roles for disabled people, Allie decided to become a playwright and write disabled characters. Allie's research interests include the representation of disabled people in media and what these representations make people think of real disabled people.

  • Tara Georgeson

    Tara Georgeson

    Major: History
    Minor: Art History
    Project: Colonial Central America and Caribbean
    Mentor: Norah Gharala

    Tara Georgeson was born in Panama, Central America and immigrated to the United States with her mother when she was five years old. She is a senior majoring in History and minoring in Art History. Her interests lie in the history and cultural identity of Central America and the Caribbean. Her summer research will focus primarily on Panama's identity formation during the early years of colonization. She is grateful for the opportunity to work with fellow cohorts, the wonderful Mellon staff, and her mentor, Dr. Norah Gharala. She looks forward to exploring new resources and furthering her skills as a researcher. Her plans are to continue through graduate school and earn her PhD, with career goals in education and continued research.

  • Diego Lopez

    Diego Lopez

    Major: Political Science
    Minor: Leadership Studies, Spanish
    Project: Spanish Political Theory
    Mentor: Carol Cooper

    Diego has always had an interest in politics. He remembers waiting in line to watch his parents vote as a young boy and staying up late to watch election results come in on TV, which has always been an important family tradition. Once he started college, Diego took the opportunity to learn about many different aspects of Political Science. However, he is especially interested in political theory and intends to research the under examined literature of Spanish political thought. He is most looking forward to investigating how Spanish colonizers interacted with indigenous Americans. His goal is to use this research to provide the general public with information on how the Spanish colonizers incorporated (or did not incorporate) the indigenous peoples into the preexisting canon of political and human rights.

  • Jack Morillo

    Jack Morillo

    Major: Liberal Studies
    Minor: English, Art History, Sociology, and Political Science
    Project: Poetics, coloniality, queer experience
    Mentor: Roberto Tejada

    Jack Morillo is exploring a burgeoning interest in poetry, inspired by the likes of Ocean Vuong and a slew of other contemporary poets who, for him, cracked open this possibility of brandishing language. His writing matter includes coloniality, grief, and sexuality. With Mellon, Jack hopes to continue to discover and mature his poetic voice, and to deliver a body of meaningful work, from which he might springboard into an MFA program in creative writing.

  • Jimmy Nguyen

    Jimmy Nguyen

    Major: Religious Studies
    Minor: Spanish
    Project: Religion, Virtue, Spirituality
    Mentor: Brandon Lamson

    Jimmy is a first-generation college student. He enjoys investigating all things spiritual and has an appreciation for the diversity of spiritual expressions. He hopes his participation in the Mellon program will help him hone his writing skills and prepare him for graduate school, where he plans to study Buddhism further. His research interests include investigating the role that religion plays in developing human virtue. When he isn’t studying, he enjoys spending time with his mom.

  • Sydney Nutter

    Sydney Nutter

    Major: Mathematics
    Minor: Philosophy
    Project: Education, Self-development, Philosophical Inquiry 
    Mentor: David Rainbow

    Through her study of Mathematics, Sydney learned to appreciate the value of questioning and pattern finding, as well as the art of breaking complicated ideas down into their simplest components. Mathematics may be the median through which Sydney came to appreciate and develop these skills, but she found that Philosophy is the area in which she wants to apply them. Sydney seeks not any particular body of knowledge, but rather her interests lie in the seeking itself, the how behind the what. Philosophy is less of an area of study than a method of studying, and Sydney’s research will examine how great thinkers, from both eastern and western traditions, have used philosophical inquiry as a means of developing both the world and themselves. 

  • Andreina Ruiz

    Andreina Ruiz

    Major: Sociology, English
    Project: Transgender Women Lesbian Community
    Mentor: Amanda Baumle

    Andreina is a Venezuelan immigrant who has been living in the United States for over a decade. As some queer communities slowly gain more visibility and acceptance, others still face widespread discrimination, even from fellow queer community members. Because of this, she is interested in researching the transmisogyny that exists in the community of lesbian and bisexual women and how it compares to the transmisogyny outside that community. After the Mellon Research Scholars Program, Andreina plans to get into graduate school to further study how the different queer communities interact with one another.

  • Morgan Thomas

    Morgan Thomas

    Major: History
    Minor: Education
    Project: Gun Violence and Youth Activism
    Mentor: Debbie Harwell

    Whether working in early childhood education or mentoring college students as a Resident Advisor, Morgan consistently gravitates towards jobs that explore the personal and academic complexity of younger individuals. Yet to her, history and education are not exclusive. As a FrameWorks Fellow, Morgan experimented with oral narratives to develop a child’s perspective of the 1963 Birmingham civil rights movement. Now, Morgan aims to track the progression of youth activism against American gun violence by using public history as a tool for documenting populations under eighteen years old. Her interests include strategies teenagers use in response to disenfranchisement, political identity development, and informal protest mechanisms that youth develop alongside national organizations such as March for Our Lives. After graduation, Morgan plans to gain professional experience as a licensed teacher before attending graduate school for History or Higher Education.

  • Daniela Trejo

    Daniela Trejo

    Major: Spanish and Biochemistry
    Minor: Chemistry
    Project: Health Disparities and Hispanic Communities
    Mentor: Gabriela Baeza Ventura

    Daniela has always had an interest in medicine and Spanish, which is why she decided to pursue a dual degree in a B.S. Biochemistry and B.A. Spanish along with a minor in chemistry. She decided to join Alpha Epsilon Delta National Pre-medical Honor Society in her freshman year to be exposed to medical opportunities throughout her college career. With the years she soon found herself wanting to help out the Hispanic community in a way that did not involve her becoming a medical doctor. Her research this summer will focus on the health disparities that the Hispanic community faces by taking a look at the diets that they live by and how statistically this leads to cardiac problems and even cancer. Daniela hopes to educate the Hispanic community on the vital importance of implementing healthy habits in one's life to live a prolonged healthier lifestyle.

  • Sandra Tzul

    Sandra Tzul

    Major: History
    Minor: Energy and Sustainability
    Project: Immigration, Houston, Texas, Diversity
    Mentor: Debbie Harwell

    Sandra is a history major with a minor in energy and sustainability. She discovered her passion for history as a freshman in high school. She appreciates the diversity at UH and in the city of Houston. She is interested in immigration and Houston history. She hopes to explore why different groups of people settled in Houston, specifically what that means for the city in terms of diversity and culture. She is passionate about learning from people and listening to their individual stories which is what attracts her to oral histories. She hopes to pursue a master's in Public History in the future and possibly become a professor down the road.

  • Victoria White

    Victoria White

    Major: Political Science
    Project: Native Americans, Education Accessibility
    Mentor: Julie F. Tolliver

    Victoria is a Junior majoring in Political Science. She began studying at the University of Houston in 2019 after moving from Australia, and through her major and studies within the political science department, Victoria has been able to pursue her strong interest in the education and history of minority groups within the U.S. The Mellon Scholars Research Program provides Victoria with a unique opportunity to connect her interests, and she will be assessing the education disparities and accessibility issues faced by Native Americans across the U.S. Using her Political Science background, and the knowledge acquired through her extensive research, Victoria hopes to have published work that effects positive change and creates a just education system for all minority groups within the U.S.