2023 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 year-long program provides these flourishing scholars with opportunities to conduct original research in their discipline, better preparing them for their future graduate studies. Meet our 2023 Mellon Scholars cohort.
  • Nine Abad

    Nine Abad

    Major: Political Science and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

    Research Interests: Filipino Folklore, Shamans, and Gender under Colonialism

    Mentor: Guillermo De Los Reyes, Hispanic Studies & WGSS

    Nine's nightmares were always filled with "Aswangs" - creatures and cryptids of Filipino folklore. Ever since they were little, their house was full of tales of Filipino myths, legends, and monsters with even family and friends claiming to have seen them. Despite leaving chills down their spine, they never stopped asking for more stories. Now, those ghost stories have transformed into their research interest. They seek to analyze how colonialist narratives, storytelling, and rhetoric in folklore impact modern conceptions of gender, indigeneity, and religion in pre-colonial societies. Nine's research focuses on the Manananggal - a viscera sucking monster - and the Babaylans - historically revered, pre-colonial shamans - to discover how queer, femme, and trans bodies become distorted and "monstrified" under colonialist regimes. After graduating, Nine plans on applying to graduate school to continue their research in gender/sexuality, communications, and its applications to Filipino cultural studies.

  • Melanie Adhikary

    Melanie Adhikary

    Major: English with Creative Writing Concentration

    Minor: Film Studies

    Research Interests: Women of Color, Representation, Literature

    Mentor: Amanda Ellis, English

    Growing up in a household and family composed mainly of women, Melanie recognized the triumphs and struggles that came with both professional life and social life. She is inspired by the strong women in her life and has always been intrigued by the representation of diverse individuals within literature. For her research project, she plans to explore the depiction of women of color within different genres of American literature. Through multiple, ethnically-diverse short stories she hopes to analyze how illness and the physical body play a role in the sociological evolution of how women of color are referenced and treated, by themselves and by others. After the Mellon program, she plans to attend graduate school to be able to explore and produce more awareness for these issues through film and other literary works.

  • Petra Anazonwu

    Petra Anazonwu

    Major: Religious Studies

    Research Interests: Ophiolatry, Ancient Near East, monster theory

    Mentor: Caryn Tamber-Rosenau, Modern and Classical Languages

    Petra's fascination with world religions has allowed her to be critical of the world that she lives in while simultaneously increasing her standards for inclusivity. Religious studies has helped her form her work-in-progress value system, which she hopes will serve as a solid foundation for a law career. This system of values has been fundamental in fueling her passion for pursuing a law career in policy to improve the quality of life for all. As a Mellon scholar, Petra looks forward to exploring the Bible and other ancient near-Eastern texts, focusing on the dualistic view of snakes as figures to worship or demonize. Monsters often reflect the real and imagined horrors of a society; monster theory is often a powerful tool for analyzing the underpinnings of the culture they emanate from. Ultimately, these monsters teach us more about ourselves: what we prize, what we fear, and how to survive.

  • Veronica Carleton

    Veronica Carleton

    Major: Liberal Studies

    Research Interests: Art Nationalism, Citizenship, Embodiment, Blackness, Womanhood

    Mentor: Rex Koontz, Art History

    Veronica's research focuses on the representation of Black women in Brazilian art in the last century starting with the modernist movement. The goal with this project is to consider the way that nationalist movements and nation states mobilize art and artistic movements to define the national identity and consider concepts of personhood and citizenship. After graduation Veronica would like continue this art historical research at the PhD level expanding outside of Brazil to consider how Black women's bodies have been framed throughout the Americas.

  • Lilly Chipman

    Lilly Chipman

    Major: English Literature

    Minor: Education

    Research Interests: Literature and Representation, Cultural Impact of Pandemics, Medical Humanities

    Mentor: Sarah Ehlers, English

    From a young age, Lilly has been captivated by literature's ability to shape and reflect the world around us. In their studies, Lilly is invested in exploring the subject of representation, especially in regards to the many ways in which literature and history intertwine. Their research is concerned with investigating the effects of pandemics and other major disease outbreaks on the literary landscape. Lilly intends to examine what kinds of stories are produced from these events, who is represented in them, and what these common threads can reveal about human response to death and disaster. They hope to begin developing their research skills through the Mellon Program to eventually apply them at the graduate level. Lilly would like to pursue a PhD in English and become both a professor and a writer.

  •  Megan Dagnall

    Megan Dagnall

    Major: History

    Minor: Phronesis

    Research Interests: History, Diversity, Culture

    Mentor: Debbie Harwell, History

    Growing up in Houston, Megan developed an appreciation for the history of Houston and the city's multicultural community. She discovered a passion for research through writing articles for the Houston History Magazine. Through Mellon, she intends to further her research into the history of diversity at the University of Houston and work towards a senior honors thesis. After expected graduation in spring 2024, Megan hopes to teach abroad and is considering graduate school to continue her education and research interests.

  • Isaac  DeBerry

    Isaac DeBerry

    Major: English Literature

    Minor: Creative Work

    Research Interests: Queer Literature, Portrayals of Masculinity

    Mentor: Daniel Davies, English

    Isaac's research interests lie in portrayals of masculinity and queerness in relation to several different fields, such as the horror genre, apocalyptic narratives, and war literature. His current project is focusing on comparing two World War I texts and their narratives as containing eerily similar sentiments of masculinity, queer attraction, trauma-bonding, repression, and conquering. He plans to be a professor, teaching introductory English courses at a community college, and wants to publish academic research and creative pieces alike.

  • Katherine Galland

    Katherine Galland

    Major: History

    Minor: English

    Research Interests: Homophobic Violence, Montrose History, Queer Liberation

    Mentor: Debbie Harwell, History

    Katherine is interested in researching the reaction to homophobic violence in the Montrose area by people outside of the LGBT community before the queer liberation movement. She plans to focus on arson in the Montrose area in order to dissect the response of first responders on the scene and compare it to the reaction of members of the LGBT community. She hopes that by creating a database of these events, she will help to increase the accessibility of queer history. After finishing her undergraduate studies at the University of Houston, Katherine plans to continue her research in graduate school.

  • Michelle Garcia

    Michelle Garcia

    Major: English

    Minor: Mexican American Studies

    Research Interests: Chicana Feminist Genealogy, Activism

    Mentor: María C. González, English

    As a first-generation student with Mexican immigrant parents, Michelle was raised as part of Houston's ever-growing Latino population. After experiencing the socioeconomic and racial adversity that many people of her community endure at disproportionate rates, she developed a keen interest in expanding educational opportunities, communal mobility, and cultural competency within higher education systems. With that goal in mind, her research focuses on learning more about the dichotomy of social activism and interpersonal relationships from a multi-generational lens. Through the Mellon program, she plans to examine the connections between some of Houston's leading Chicana activists and their scholarly descendants. Michelle aims to gain a better understanding of feminist genealogy and its influence on contemporary Chicana activism by continuing her research within enrollment in MFA and PhD programs.

  •  José Gutierrez

    José Gutierrez

    Major: Political Science and History

    Research Interests: Modern Politics, Ancient History, Latin American History

    Mentor: James Schafer, History

    José is a Senior at the University of Houston studying Political Science and History. José developed a passion for history and political structures at a young age after playing many video games with historical settings, namely Age of Empires 2. His research interests in Latin American history stem from his Chilean and Cuban heritage, and he is particularly fond of Mesoamerican cultures, like the Aztecs and the Mayans. Recent trips to Chile have given José insight on the modern political culture of Latin America, especially with regards to the varying degree of importance of social issues among different generations. Through his research, José plans on combining his interests of Latin American politics, history, and law. After graduating, José plans on attending law school and specializing in immigration law.

  • Kalena Holeman

    Kalena Holeman

    Major: English Literature

    Minor: Creative Work

    Research Interests: African and African Diasporic Studies, Black Classicism, Black Medievalism, 20th/21st Century Black Literature

    Mentor: Haylee Harrell, English

    Kalena is a mixed-race scholar who has always been interested in narratives of identity - specifically within the realm of literature. Previously, she has worked on projects that explore why Black artists turn to narratives of the past to tell their own stories. Over the summer she will shift her focus to examine the disparities in these narratives between Black men and women writers. Her project will explore Dantean receptions in the works of twentieth-century Black women writers and compare it with her previous findings on their male counterparts. She hopes to highlight nuances in the artistic process that both divide and transcend gender lines. After graduation, Kalena intends to study abroad to deepen her knowledge of Black postcolonial artistry across the diaspora, and eventually pursue a PhD in literature.

  • Kayla Huhn

    Kayla Huhn

    Major: English Applied Linguistics and Spanish

    Minor: Education

    Research Interests: Linguistics, Education, Constructed Identity, Giftedness, Social Media

    Mentor: Lauren Zentz, English

    As a student who has often defined herself in relation to academics and a soon-to-be educator herself, Kayla is interested in researching the process of constructed identity in the classroom, focusing especially on the "gifted" label and its effects on students in continuing education. Following her participation in the Mellon Research Scholars Program, Kayla plans to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Spain and continue her research through graduate study.

  • Angela Jardina

    Angela Jardina

    Major: English

    Minor: Phronesis

    Research Interests: Existentialism, Psychology, and Literary Criticism

    Mentor: Iain Morrison, Philosophy, Honors College

    Born in Bangkok, Thailand and raised in League City, Texas, Angela is an English student with a writing concentration. Outside of school Angela writes for the Data Science and Energy schools at the University of Houston alongside performing music with her band. Her research interests involves existential philosophy, group psychology, and literary criticism of realistic fiction. Her goals following the program include pursuing a dual JD/PhD degree in a yet undecided field.

  • Alicia Lartigue

    Alicia Lartigue

    Major: Political Science & Law, Values, and Policy and Global Engagement & Research

    Research Interests: Women's policy in the judiciary branch

    Mentor: Alex Badas, Political Science

    Alicia has always been interested in the people in power who make decisions that affect everyone, which influenced her decision to major in Political Science. However, she noticed that most of these people were men and belonged to the same social class, and had little in common with the rest of society and herself. This realization sparked her interest in her current research which concerns women's policy. She has always supported women's empowerment and increasing minority representation, and she believes this research will help her accomplish this. Her ultimate goal is to help and advance the women's movement to increase gender and minority representation in our branches of government. As for Alicia's future, law school and graduate school are still at the top of her mind, but regardless of what she decides to do, advancing womens' and minorities' representation will be a part of it.

  • Christine Le

    Christine Le

    Major: History

    Research Interests: Asia, War, Militarism, Informal Economy

    Mentor: Ivan Small, Comparative Cultural Studies

    Christine studies history with a particular interest in the second half of the 20th century. Her current research investigates South Korean militarism during the Vietnam War. In utilizing a transpacific approach, she will explore Korea and Vietnam's Cold War intimacies in two ways: 1) by analyzing the different forms of gendered laboring between Vietnamese women and Korean soldiers and 2) dissecting how the Vietnamese informal economy created the financial conditions of possibility for Korean state-building projects. As she will be studying abroad in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for one semester, her research methodology includes conducting oral interviews with Korean veterans, Lai Dai Han (mixed Korean-Vietnamese children born during wartime), and the mothers of Lai Dai Han.

  • Genesis McGriggs

    Genesis McGriggs

    Major: English with Concentration in Creative Writing

    Minor: Creative Work

    Research Interests: Creative Writing, Gothic Literature, Intimacy, Race, and Homoeroticism

    Mentor: Leslie Vollrath, English, Honors College

    As a Mississippi native, Genesis has always been drawn to the state’s rich literary history. As a writer herself, she has a special interest in the gothic horror and fantasy genres. She has always been drawn by the intimacy that comes with being both a reader and a writer and how this is reflected within the stories themselves. Her research intends to emphasize the connection between intimacy and place. Her research will be focused on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, with "The Fall of the House of Usher" as a particular focus. She is interested in the ways in which Poe utilizes relationships to influence the setting, or vice versa. Genesis intends to use her research as a tool that can be applied to her own stories. She hopes to continue her studies into graduate school so that she may work in publishing as well as academia.

  • Maryam Mohy

    Maryam Mohy

    Major: Middle Eastern Studies

    Minor: Spanish and Biology

    Research Interests: Art History, Colonialism in the arts, Decolonization literature

    Mentor: Hayan Charara, English, Honors College

    Having grown up in Baghdad, Iraq during the occupation years, Maryam experienced firsthand how war can destroy the centuries-long infrastructure of artistic tradition and creative institutions. There was very little opportunity to seriously study creative arts during her most formative years. After moving to the United States and developing her passion for Art History in the South West Asia and North Africa, or SWANA, region, she began to introduce history and politics into her research of the creative arts. Currently, as a junior studying Middle Eastern Studies, she wants to explore the historical and artistic traditions in Modern-day Iraq and their impact on contemporary art. She's also interested in studying the ways in which politics, religion, history, and neo-colonialism have affected the institution of the Museums in Iraq and the local folk art within its culturally diverse population.

  • Kelly Montano

    Kelly Montano

    Major: Anthropology

    Minor: Biology

    Research Interests: Medical anthropology, Health-seeking behavior, Women's health, Covid-19

    Mentor: Marwa Ghazali, Comparative Cultural Studies

    Kelly is a Salvadoran American student in their Junior year at the University of Houston. She fell in love with Anthropology after taking a medical anthropology class and was fascinated by the interdisciplinary nature of anthropological research methods. Her interest in health and recent world events lead her to focus her research on a rapidly normalized concept during and after the height of COVID-19: mental health. Her goal is to specifically look at Latinx teenage girls' cultural settings and reactions to COVID-19 with the objective of producing a contextualized account of individuals' mental health experiences. After the Mellon program and graduation, she hopes to pursue a graduate program that focuses on medical anthropology.

  • Logan  Tantibanchachai

    Logan Tantibanchachai

    Major: Philosophy

    Minor: Phronesis

    Research Interests: Ontology, Free will, Political philosophy, Value theory

    Mentor: Luis Oliveira, Philosophy

    Logan Tantibanchachai is an aspiring philosopher and professor. After beginning high-level undergraduate research, he quickly realized that research was one of the most fulfilling activities available to him. Having completed a number of independent research projects to this point his research interests lie in both metaphysics and ethics. However, he has been recently leaning towards questions that relate to suicide as a philosophical issue. Through the works of some of his favorite philosophers, Camus and Schopenhauer, he hopes to further his knowledge on suicide as a philosophical issue, while creating his own theory on the problem of suicide. Suicide is a problem that is uniquely positioned in philosophy as it holds a multitude of theoretical and practical implications. Following his participation in Mellon Scholars, Logan hopes to pursue a PhD in philosophy and go into academia.

  • Elena  Zelaya

    Elena Zelaya

    Major: English

    Minor: Women's Studies

    Research Interests: Intersection of Media & Military MeToo Movement

    Mentor: Audrey Miller, Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies

    In 2020, Elena reasonably felt the COVID culture shock which called her to reevaluate her next steps and aspirations. After receiving her Honors Associate of Arts this past May from an undergraduate research-based program at Lone Star College, she transferred to the University of Houston to complete her studies. Elena is interested in furthering her previous research into the case of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen from 2020, particularly how the media has covered it since and military gender violence in general. As a fellow young Latina woman, the story of Vanessa's harassment and murder is one that she will continue to bring awareness to--no matter the time that has elapsed. After graduation from UH, she hopes to attend graduate school for either English or Social Work to continue serving the community in a 1-on-1 fashion.