2022 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 2022 Mellon Scholars cohort.
  • Arreon Allen

    Arreon Allen

    Major: Fine Arts
    Research Interests: Film studies, Pop culture, Humanistic inquiry
    Mentor: Luisa Orto, Art History

    Arreon is a fine artist with growing interests in film, fashion, and anthropology. His artistry unintentionally cultivated from a young age through binge watching several different types of movies and TV shows, specifically B-rated horror. He was always curious about everything, so he began to research the inner workings of pop culture, its purpose, and its effects on viewers. Now understanding the societal relevance of art forms, Arreon intends on exploring Black exposure within film and other media, and highlight the importance of representation and authenticity. This type of research is integral in his development as an artist, and he hopes to contribute to the creation of inclusive platforms so that marginalized voices are heard and valued.

  • Jason Bang

    Jason Bang

    Major: English Literature
    Research Interests: Southeast Asian and Emotional Validation
    Mentor: Eunjeong Lee, English

    Jason is an English Literature major who has always been heavily interested in matters that pertain to the human heart or emotion. With that in mind, he is interested in what influences Southeast Asian (specifically Vietnamese) parents' engagement in taking care of their children's emotional wellbeing and how they communicate in regards to emotional validation. His goal is to hopefully contribute to the ongoing conversation of the Vietnamese immigrant family dynamic and find ways to improve mental health for all parties through solidified and sincere forms of communication.

  • Carlos Campos Jr

    Carlos Campos Jr

    Major: Sociology 
    Minor: Mexican American Studies
    Research Interests: Political Economy, Urban Geography, Inequality, Social Movements
    Mentor: Gabriela Baeza Ventura, Hispanic Studies

    Carlos Campos Jr (they/elle) is a Chicane scholar. Carlos was born in Houston and is based in Pasadena, but their home is in Monterrey, Mexico. Outside of academia, they are a published poet and perform music in professional settings, having studied and won a competition in the field. Their research interests involve studying how and why Houston works as a city. They intend to study the political economy of the city, the bases of power and influence, and its effects on the city's makeup. Their longstanding goal is to answer the question: Why is Houston structured as it is, and how can it be changed? Their intent with the Mellon Research Scholars program is to build a foundation for their long-term research aims for their Senior Honors Thesis.

  • Dara DeSilva

    Dara DeSilva

    Major: Political Science 
    Minor: Law, Values, and Policy
    Research Interests: Critical Criminology & Mass Incarceration
    Mentor: Johanna Luttrell, Political Philosophy

    Ever since Dara was a child, she was interested in the stories we tell about crime. From true crime documentaries to stories we hear on the news, she always was interested in what it says about ourselves. As a Mellon Research Scholar, Dara hopes to continue this passion by examining our criminal justice system with the philosophical underpinnings of critical criminology and abolition-based theory. Dara's research will re-center the voices of marginalized people who have been demonized as "criminals." Her specific focus for this project will be crime narratives during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey, COVID-19, and more to examine how crime is depicted and how it affects those in the criminal justice system. After Mellon, Dara plans on continuing her research with a Masters in Criminology or Sociology.

  • Maya Dompier

    Maya Dompier

    Major: English
    Minor: Phronesis
    Research Interests: Asian American Literature and Identity
    Mentor: Sunny Yang, English

    Maya's research interests involve studying the Korean American struggle with identity. After graduation, she hopes to get a Fulbright to teach English in South Korea and eventually attend law school or pursue a graduate degree in Literature.

  • Jenna Goodrich

    Jenna Goodrich

    Major: Political Science
    Minor: History
    Research Interests: Media and Incarceration
    Mentor: Leandra Zarnow, History

    Jenna is interested in researching popular media’s depiction of incarcerated people. She believes that the way that inmates are portrayed in media and culture often leads to a narrative of dehumanization, and she wants to analyze the gap between the way the media paints incarcerated people versus the actual human experience. After she graduates, Jenna plans to attend graduate school for museum studies. The title of her project is "Depiction of Inmates in Media in the 2010s."

  • Alex Gurule

    Alex Gurule

    Major: History
    Research Interests: Norse Conquest and Medieval European history
    Mentor: José Angel Hernández, History

    Alexandra's research focuses on mass Christian conversion and crypto-Paganism within Norse tribes, how this impacted the Vikings during the Heptarchy, and the emergence of Danelaw. Over the summer she will work on her paper "History of the Viking Era in the Heptarchy." She plans on continuing her research through a Senior Honors Thesis that will focus on religious and political tensions while the Danish occupied England. After graduation, Alexandra plans on applying to graduate programs to continue researching Medieval Norse history and Viking Age England. She hopes that her research will help return some cultural autonomy to the Norse societies, demystify Pagan cultures, and explore how these cultures influence the Christian world.

  • Tatiana Haddad

    Tatiana Haddad

    Major: Anthropology, World Cultures and Literatures with a focus in Middle Eastern Studies
    Minor: Business Administration
    Research Interests: Bedouin, Tourism, Forced Sedentarization
    Mentor: Susan Rasmussen, Comparative Cultural Studies

    Growing up in a Syrian family, Tatiana was always fascinated by the myriad cultures and traditions in the Middle East. When she began her university studies as an Anthropology student, her attention was captured by the varied Bedouin communities spread all across the MENA region. She is particularly intrigued by the histories of the Jordanian Bedouin and the cultural relationships with their inhabited regions that became tourist destinations, such as Petra and Wadi Rum. She is interested in researching the breadth of cultural changes undergone by the Wadi Rum Bedouin to accommodate and encourage the growing tourism industry in Jordan. She hopes that the results of this research will better inform the public about the long-lasting effects of cultural commodification on already-disappearing customs. The title of her research project is “Commercial Tourism in Wadi Rum: Economic Empowerment or Culture Loss?”

  • Alexander Kerry

    Alexander Kerry

    Major: Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science
    Research Interests: Anti-Colonial Theater in Palestine
    Mentor: Abdel Razzaq Takriti, History

    Alex is a third-year Palestinian student studying Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science at the University of Houston. Alex's research focuses on the development of anti-colonial theater in Palestine, specifically investigating how Palestinian organizations used theatrical production as a vehicle for mobilization, unification, consciousness building, and how they made space for the literal and figurative practice of liberation. Alex plans on continuing and deepening his research by pursuing MFA and PhD programs.

  • Owen Lartson

    Owen Lartson

    Major: English
    Minor: World Cultures & Literatures
    Research Interests: Gothic Literature, Queer Theory, Speculative Fiction
    Mentor: Sebastian J. Lecourt, English

    Owen Lartson is an English major interested in speculative fiction and literary depictions of queer and transgender people of color. For his summer research project, he will critically engage classic and contemporary Gothic texts to expand the traditional conceptions of the "Gothic" and identify readings of queer/trans identities and experiences within them. After graduating, he intends on pursuing graduate study programs in literature to research and archive Black and trans experiences in alternative subcultures.

  • Naveera Majid

    Naveera Majid

    Major: English Literature
    Minor: Sociology
    Research Interests: Creative Nonfiction, Sociological Imagination, Pakistani American Women, Taboos
    Mentor: David Womble, English

    Growing up Pakistani in America, Naveera saw the effects of the divisions that present themselves when an individual has to choose their identity. Though one's identity is not meant to be hidden, Naveera found that many women like her have had to obscure parts of their identities because of the notion that these parts are related to "unspeakable" topics. For her research, she is interested in the places where double standards for Southeast Asian women reveal their incoherence. She wishes, through the exploration of creative nonfiction works, to dissect the literary strategies that give voice to tabooed female perspectives. She will use the sociological perspective in order to understand how disparities in Southeast Asian and Southeast Asian American societies are portrayed. Naveera intends to pursue a PhD in English in order to continue exploring the issues that she will examine as a Mellon Scholar.

  • Victoria Rances

    Victoria Rances

    Major: Philosophy
    Research Interests: Medical Ethics, Deontology, W.D. Ross, CRISPR
    Mentor: D. Justin Coates, Philosophy

    Through her exposure to medicine from her family of healthcare workers and her love of philosophy, Victoria has found that there is not enough emphasis on the connection between STEM and the humanities. The two fields are often polarized, blinding us to effective solutions in which both must be considered as a system rather than competing forces. Her main interest lies in removing the stigma that either STEM or the humanities are more important or more valuable than the other. To demonstrate this, she will study the moral theories of W.D. Ross to provide a deontological approach to ethical dilemmas concerning the usage of CRISPR. After graduation, she plans to attend a graduate program in philosophy to study medical ethics.

  • Alfonso Reyes

    Alfonso Reyes

    Major: English with a Concentration in Creative Writing
    Minor: Leadership Studies and LGBTQ+ Studies
    Research Interests: Creative Writing, Diversity and Representation
    Mentor: Margot Gayle Backus, English

    Alfonso is a prose writer with a particular interest in publishing. Throughout his time working for literary journals and magazines at the University of Houston, he has noticed a substantial lack of marginalized voices in publishing and popular fiction. As a Hispanic, trans* individual with the privilege to pass as a white male, he finds it of the utmost importance to use his privilege to champion marginalized voices. He is interested in researching a variety of methodologies for writing authentic marginalized voices into prose fiction. This is the first step to a more genuinely diverse publishing and literary world- something of which Alfonso hopes to champion for years to come through graduate school and working with publishing nonprofits.

  • Miranda Ruzinsky

    Miranda Ruzinsky

    Major: Spanish and History
    Research Interests: Social Linguistics regarding Spanish in America
    Mentor: Manuel Gutierrez, Hispanic Studies

    Miranda is the product of a multicultural upbringing including Latin and Jewish traditions. However, her mother, as well as other adults of her mother's generation, chose not to teach their children Spanish for various personal and social reasons. Miranda decided to study the language in University, enjoying it so much that it became her main discipline and compass for potential future pursuits. Now a fluent Spanish speaker and knowledgable about Hispanic culture, Miranda aims to understand its relation with American society. She will be exploring the impact of social mobility in the US on the conservation of the Spanish language among generations within American Hispanic families. She hopes to highlight the importance of bilingualism in both personal and professional settings and how this outlook can promote greater cultural diversity along with socioeconomic success.

  • Genesis Santillan

    Genesis Santillan

    Major: Art History
    Minor: Spanish
    Research Interests: Color in Aztec Human Sacrifices
    Mentor: Rex Koontz, Art History

    Genesis is a junior at the University of Houston majoring in Art History and minoring in Spanish. She was born in Mexico, and her family immigrated to the US when she was very young. Her research interests reflect her desire to reconnect with her cultural heritage by learning more about the ancient Aztec civilization. Specifically, she would like to explore "The Significance Color had to the Aztec Human Sacrifice Rituals", which new technological advances have recently been able to detect on the monoliths used during the religious ceremonies. She hopes that the Mellon Research Scholars Program will help her develop strong research skills that she can apply in graduate school. She also hopes to become a university professor.

  • Andrew Tello

    Andrew Tello

    Major: English and History
    Research Interests: History, Writing, Reading
    Mentor: Debbie Harwell, History

    Andrew likes to tell jokes, even if hardly anyone laughs at them, and write fiction, even if hardly anyone likes reading his work. He loves to read and write. He also has a passion for history and learning. For Andrew, it is an endless quest discovering just how many things there are in the world about which he is not knowledgeable. Through Mellon, he intends to bridge his love for reading, writing, and history.

  • Ian Thompson

    Ian Thompson

    Major: History
    Research Interests: Ancient and Classical History, Human Development
    Mentor: Richard Armstrong, Modern and Classical Languages

    After spending 20+ years in the gymnastics community, Ian has gained a love for learning and educating. That love has translated into the research and study of ancient civilizations. After graduation, Ian intends on attending a graduate program where he can continue to develop the strong research and presentation skills that he has developed through the Mellon Research Schoalrs Program.

  • Tela Todd

    Tela Todd

    Major: Psychology
    Minor: Business Management & Leadership
    Research Interests: Psychosocial Effects of Medical Kidnappings
    Mentor: Jerome Crowder, Social and Behavioral Sciences

    Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Tela’s family faced socioeconomic struggles; nevertheless, the children in the family were never neglected. Since then, she has learned about the traumatic experience of medical kidnappings. Tela’s research interests consists of analyzing hospital and Child Protective Services' policies and procedures that enable medical kidnappings. She will also apply racial and socioeconomic frameworks to connect the policies to the psychosocial effects that medical kidnappings cause children and families at risk. Tela hopes to raise awareness through her research to stop this practice. She is eager to further develop her ideas with new research skills and expand her network!

  • León Valadés

    León Valadés

    Major: Anthropology
    Minor: Spanish
    Research Interests: Resilience, Archaeology
    Mentor: Kenneth Brown, Comparative Cultural Studies

    León's passion for archaeology first began when he was 14 years old when his mother took him to the archaeological site of Teotihuacan in Mexico. Ever since that day, he immediately knew that he wanted to pursue archaeology. Over the summer, León will be working at the archaeological site of Atzompa in Oaxaca, Mexico, a site built by the Zapotec civilization. He will apply his findings here to his Mellon Research Scholars project. His goal is to focus on the similarities between the utilitarian ceramic artifacts found at the archaeological site of Atzompa and the contemporary ceramics produced and sold at the potters town of Santa Maria Atzompa. After graduation, León hopes to pursue a PhD in archaeology. The title of his research project is "Ceramic Analysis at Atzompa: Maintaining the Over A Millennium- Old Tradition in Zapotec Utilitarian Ceramics."

  • Esraa Wasel

    Esraa Wasel

    Major: Philosophy
    Research Interests: Friendship, Moral Advice, Beliefs
    Mentor: Iain Morrisson, Philosophy

    Esraa was introduced to philosophy through reading Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle’s treatment of friendship in the Nicomachean Ethics led her to think about friendship and its value. Esraa wants to approach friendship from the perspective of ethical philosophy and epistemology by researching the viability of friends as a reliable source for moral advice. By looking at the biases that friendship may involve, she hopes to explain whether our friends can be a good source of unbiased moral advice. Friendship is an important component of a well-lived life. The possibility that our friends might unknowingly lead us astray is what motivates her to solve this puzzle. Esraa hopes to continue her studies by pursuing a PhD in philosophy and ultimately becoming a professor.