Kerby Lynch is a first generation doctoral student in geography and has been at Berkeley since 2013, where she started as a freshman studying African American Studies. Kerby’s entire Berkeley journey, from undergraduate to Ph.D. candidacy, has been rooted in advocacy and a desire to see a UC Berkeley for all. Kerby is also one of the inaugural cohort of 16 UC Berkeley graduate students to be chosen as a Diversity & Community Fellow.
Diversity & Community Fellows are appointed for one year to work within and across university departments to support an inclusive graduate community. Their goal is to enhance the cultural, academic, and professional experience of historically underrepresented students, including students of color, disabled students, LGBTQ+ students, undocumented students, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and first-generation college students. Initiated this summer by the Office for Graduate Diversity, and partially funded through a generous donation, the program awards an annual stipend of $7500 to each student fellow.
Along with mentorship and providing training and workshops for graduate students, a key component of fellows work will be recruitment and outreach to Berkeley undergraduates and prospective underrepresented students across the country. Though the percentage has been rising steadily, students from underrepresented minorities still comprise only 14.7% of Berkeley’s graduate student body as of fall 2020.
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.
Kerby attributes her success at Berkeley to the dozens of students who came before her who gave her the Berkeley “game,” how to navigate the hostility but most importantly how to live in the moment and take advantage of what Berkeley has to offer.
Expressing her gratitude for being selected as a fellow, Kerby went on to confirm her belief in the power of community and wisdom to help marginalized students thrive.
“I am ready to experiment with the possibilities of what this program can mean for Berkeley! I am excited to collectively define how this program comes after a long history of students feeling excluded from their Berkeley experience and thus creating their own programs to foster inclusion. I believe I am most excited to re-imagine our values as a campus for diversity in higher education and in turn align that with our vision for student excellence.”
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.
“I am excited to continue my advocacy work in disability access on campus. More importantly, I am excited about this movement: Berkeley’s commitment to graduate diversity and equity will create a lasting, revolutionary impact in the higher education landscape. I am proud of my Golden Bear roots for this reason (and many others)!”
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.
“I’m very excited to contribute to the effort to make Berkeley a more equitable institution. I’m also very eager to learn and develop skills required to meaningfully support and aid in the professional development of diverse students. I’m also very excited to meet people who also share the desire to help lift up those who have not had their needs adequately met.”
Martin is a fifth year Ph.D. in comparative biochemistry/molecular & cell biology, poised to make substantial contributions to the scientific frontier of characterizing the roles of non-coding genomic elements in mammalian development and disease. As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, he earned the Award for Distinguished Research in Chemistry for work on elucidating the structure and interactions of the long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) Cyrano in the lab of Gabriel Varani. In his graduate research work at Berkeley, he continues with the theme of characterizing non-coding genomic elements in the Lab of Lin He.
Along with Kerby Lynch, Allyson Tang, and Martin Kinisu, this year’s cohort of Berkeley Diversity & Community Fellows include:
Alexander Alvara, Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering
Alex Brostoff, Ph.D. student in Comparative Literature
Nicole-Marie Cotton, Ph.D. student in African American and African Diaspora Studies
Sean Darling-Hammond, Ph.D student in Public Policy
Caleb Dawson, Ph.D student in Education
Amy Ferguson, Master student in Public Policy
Andrea Jacobo, Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
Aminta Kouyate, MS/MD student in the UCB-UCSF Joint Medical Program
Jonathan Moore, Ph.D student in African-American and African Diaspora Studies
Knychelle Passmore, J.D. student at Berkeley Law
Cyrell Roberson, Ph.D. student in Psychology
Maia Rodriguez, Ph.D. student in English
Jonathan Tyson, Ph.D student in Chemistry