The Office for Graduate Diversity (OGD) recently appointed 16 Diversity and Community Fellows for the current 2020-21 academic year. The Diversity and Community Fellows, individually and collectively, work to advance and implement the Diversity and Inclusion goals of OGD and the Graduate Division.

The Diversity and Community Fellows work across and within academic units to create healthy communities for graduate students. Critical components of this work include supporting an inclusive graduate community and enhancing the cultural, academic, and professional experience of historically underrepresented students at Berkeley.

Meet the 2020-21 Diversity and Community Fellows:

Alexander Alvara

Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering

As a young man growing up in Southern California, moving from place to place, and working multiple odd-jobs, I never would have imagined that I could go from scrubbing toilets, shipping boxes, and digging trenches to a PhD in mechanical engineering. It has been a great journey and I am happy to have had it but there is still much work to be done.

My hope is to make UC Berkeley (and hopefully the world) a place where people like me can thrive because of the community and culture we cultivate on campus, and not in spite of the systems in place even within the university that seek to subvert and diminish us. I want my community, campus, and industry to be representative and celebratory of me and my peers.

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Alex Brostoff

Ph.D. student in Comparative Literature

Alex Brostoff is a writer, teacher, and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature with a Designated Emphasis in Gender, Women, & Sexuality. She earned her B.A. in Comparative Literature at Sarah Lawrence College (2009) and her M.A. in Education, Curriculum, and Instruction (2013) while teaching and translating at the Pan American School of Bahia in Salvador, Brazil.

A two-time recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon-funded Cal Performances Grant in arts-integrated curricula, her courses span studies in the gender and sexual politics of contemporary cultural production. She has also enjoyed leading workshops on academic writing and critical pedagogy at the Townsend Center for the Humanities and the GSI Teaching & Resource Center.

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Nicole-Marie Cotton

Ph.D. student in African American and African Diaspora Studies

After working in a microbiology lab and 3M, Nicole was set on a career in the life sciences until one day she was in the middle of a debate between her zoology professor and her philosophy professor about ethics. Since then, Nicole has been interested in ways to bring people together from different backgrounds to discuss ethical issues such as environmental justice, multicultural inclusion, and tech for social good. Nicole is a graduate researcher for UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute working on a landscape scan on technology and social determinants of health for underserved communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Her PhD research centers around how DNA ancestry technology and social media converge to teach the public new understandings of race and ethnicity.

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Sean Darling-Hammond

Ph.D student in Public Policy

Sean Darling-Hammond is a PhD student at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. There, he combines his backgrounds in psychology, sociology, law, policy, and statistics to identify education policies that can help students of all backgrounds thrive; and help people of all backgrounds connect across stale social divides. His recent works include research on the causal impact of stigmatizing language on racial bias; and the debiasing power of contact in workplaces and mindset and policy shifts in schools.

He is currently working on research to ascertain the causal impact of anti-bias trainings in higher education and governmental contexts, and identify conditions that ensure they succeed; and on research to ascertain the causal impact of restorative practices in K-12 schools.

Schedule an appointment with Sean

Caleb Dawson

Ph.D student in Education

Caleb Dawson is a playful community organizer and dance enthusiast from Federal Way, WA. He graduated with his B.A. in sociology and economics from Gonzaga University, and his M.A. in Education from UC Berkeley. Caleb is interested in how race, gender, and capitalism shape Black folks’ experiences in and with higher education. His dissertation explores how Black folk in white institutions critique and contest antiblack violence. Caleb also has written about the political economy of student debt and of for-profit colleges, and convenes the Critical University Studies working group at UC Berkeley. Engaged with Black Feminist Studies and Sociology, Caleb is a 4th year Ph.D. student in UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education and the Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

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Amy Ferguson

Master student in Public Policy

I consider racial equity to be a lifelong pursuit. My personal background includes organizing for racial justice, and as a graduate student at the U.C. Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, my focus is on racial and economic equity. I tailor my projects around this focus, including work on diversity at Goldman, property damage by Oakland police, and reparations in Oakland.

As a fellow, I will continue analyzing every social issue with a lens of racial understanding, and aim to bring greater equity and belonging to our institution and our community. As a queer, mixed-race, cis-woman, I strongly value diversity and inclusivity in communities. I look forward to supporting our graduate community and implementing diversity recommendations at Cal.

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Andrea Jacobo

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)

Andrea Jacobo is a second-year DrPH student at UC Berkeley. She received her Masters of Public Health from The University of Memphis and Bachelors of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Miami. Prior to her attending UC Berkeley, Andrea implemented various evidence-based nutrition and physical activity programs in community settings and serving youth to older adults. Along with program implementation, Andrea co-facilitated a community of practice focused on addressing the root causes of health disparities in Memphis through policy, systems, and environment. Andrea’s areas of interest are addressing health inequities through community-centered, people-centered approaches including human-centered design thinking as a tool for community organization and capacity building. She has a passion for community health, culture & arts, and food. In her spare time, Andrea loves to work out and teach group fitness classes to help promote wellness and write poetry to catalyze social change!

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Martin Kinisu

Ph.D. student in Comparative Biochemistry/Molecular & Cell Biology

Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Martin Kinisu’s unique elementary school experience helped shape not only his appreciation of cultural interconnectedness, but also his desire to combat racism in education and advance equity and inclusion. As a student at Rosslyn Academy, a missionary school where an overwhelming majority of the students and faculty are of Caucasian or Asian descent, and typically American citizens, Martin found himself as a minority despite being in his home country. “Students that “fit in” to the Rosslyn Academy standard were favored among faculty, from academic and athletic awards to simple friendship,” he explained. He is presently part of a large collaborative effort among alumni and current academy students dedicated to implementing change necessary to make Rosslyn Academy the school it should be, and looks forward to extending his advocacy within Berkeley.

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Aminta Kouyate

MS/MD student in the UCB-UCSF Joint Medical Program

Aminta is a proud Bay native. Born in Oakland, she is dedicated to eradicating the systems of oppression that create the health disparities for marginalized communities. As a medical student in the UCSF-UC Berkeley Joint Medical program, her research is focused on building an anti-racist medical education curriculum. She comes to the JMP after eight years of professional public health experience. She formerly ran the Summer HIV/AIDS Research Program for underrepresented minority students to get into public health and medicine as well as contributed to substance use and food insecurity research.

Aminta is dedicated to working towards a fundamental change in the way we practice medicine. She envisions leaving behind a system that separates healing from health and cultivating a new practice learning from community wisdom to center healing, happiness, rest, and justice for all people.

Schedule an appointment with Aminta

Kerby Lynch

Ph.D. student in Geography

Kerby Lynch believes in the power of community and wisdom to help marginalized students thrive. Kerby’s current dissertation is about the community formation of Black Queer people in San Francisco post-redevelopment initiatives. Her academic research is rooted in archiving the erasure of Black resistance to domination — an extended metaphor for Kerby’s interest in advocacy and community at Berkeley, making sure all marginalized people have access to quality education in order to ontologically transform oneself from an object back into a subject with agency. Kerby seeks to empower students from all backgrounds to take ownership of this educational experience and find coping mechanisms to address oppressive departmental climates.

Jon Jon Moore

Ph.D student in African-American and African Diaspora Studies

Jon Jon Moore is an educator and writer born and raised in Detroit, MI. He received his B.A. in Africana Studies and American Studies from Tufts University and in May 2020 received his M.A. in African-American Studies from UC Berkeley. Jon Jon is broadly interested in back ontology, critical theory, film, poetics, and the paranormal. More specifically, he pursues the relationship between afro-pessimism and black feminist elaborations of the human vis-à-vis black film and literature. A member of the Film and Media Designated Emphasis (D.E.) program, Jon Jon enjoys watching bad horror movies and drinking decaf lattes. To learn more about his work, listen to his monthly podcast AbolitionISH on Spotify.

Schedule an appointment with Jon Jon

Knychelle Passmore

 J.D. student at Berkeley Law

Knychelle Passmore is a second-year law student from Waterbury, Connecticut. She is a Henderson Center for Social Justice Scholar, Co-President of the Law Students of African Descent, Articles Editor for the Berkeley Journal of African-American Law and Policy, and member of the Womxn of Color Collective and First Generation Professionals. As Co-President of LSAD, Knychelle engages in advocacy and community outreach that centers the interests of the Black community in Berkeley and beyond.

She received her BA in English and Political Science from Howard University in 2018. Before coming to law school, Knychelle worked in communications for a non-profit tackling wealth and political inequality. Knychelle is particularly passionate about voting rights and plans to use her legal education to advocate for communities marginalized in the electoral process.

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Cyrell Roberson

Ph.D. student in Psychology

Cyrell is a doctoral candidate in School Psychology at UC Berkeley where his research focuses on the psychosocial development of high achieving, yet underserved ethnic minority gifted youth. Cyrell’s research areas of expertise also include resilience, gifted education, and the opportunity gap. His work has been published in several journals including the Journal of Advanced Academics, the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, and the American Psychological Association.

Cyrell is a credentialed school psychologist with a wide range of experience in private practice settings, as well as K-12th grade public, independent, and charter schools in the Bay Area. Cyrell is also the founder of Jubily, Inc., a healthcare tech startup that connects users with culturally competent healthcare providers and online communities of peer support. His previous professional experience also includes working at Educational Testing Service (ETS) on the Fairness Review, teaching education and psychology courses at UC Berkeley, and interning at The White House where he worked on education policy and advocacy initiatives of the Executive Office of the President. He earned a B.S. in psychology from Xavier University of Louisiana and an M.A. in education from UC Berkeley.

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Maia Rodriguez

Ph.D. student in English

Maia Rodriguez is a fifth year graduate student in the Department of English, where she works on the intersections of tribal sovereignty and civil rights legal discourses in the Civil Rights and Power Movements. As a member of two groups whose lands are currently occupied by the U.S., American Indians and Puerto Ricans, I am committed to the work of decolonization both within and outside of Berkeley.

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Allyson Tang

Ph.D. student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures

Allyson Tang is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. As a first-generation minority student who grew up in a multi-racial household, she is deeply passionate about cross-cultural communications.

Like Kerby, Allyson believes that diversity and inclusion are vital to our society. “In the context of higher education, it is crucial to recognize the unique systematic barriers faced by students coming from different cultural backgrounds,” she explains. During her undergraduate career, Allyson faced significant financial and health challenges; her experiences navigating through the various hardships motivated her to advocate for diversity and inclusion in higher education communities.

In her advocacy work, Allyson is particularly passionate about disability awareness and access among graduate students and in the general campus community. She currently serves as the project director for the Graduate Assembly’s Disabled Student Advocacy Project and looks forward to continuing her advocacy projects in the disabled community.

Schedule an appointment with Allyson

Jonathan Tyson

Ph.D student in Chemistry

Tyson is a fifth year Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry. He was born in Trinidad & Tobago and raised in South Jersey (856). His research involves the design and synthesis of novel chemical tools for advanced live cell imaging. These tools enable the study of organelle contacts and dynamics for orders of magnitude longer and at higher resolution than existing technologies.

Tyson is committed to communicating science in ways that connect with broad audiences. During #BlackInChem Week 2020, he recorded a “Blackademia Freestyle,” where, through rap, he celebrated the achievements of contemporary black scientists and called for more black faculty to be hired at research universities. He recently began an online platform on YouTube and Twitter called Fresh Professor (branded around the Fresh Prince with tagline “Style like Will Smith; Resume like Uncle Phil), where in addition to science communication, he hosts laidback conversations between young academics with the intention of diversifying higher education by breaking down barriers that may inhibit people of color from pursuing scholarship in all of its different forms.

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